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Irfan donates vertebrae, spinners opt for elbow surgery

The pick of the cricket headlines this year

R Rajkumar
Ishant Sharma loses his footing after delivering the ball, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2014

Ishant Sharma told journalists this year that every time he pitches it up, a puppy is killed somewhere  •  Getty Images

Few can deny that 2014 (aka the Year of the Screaming Kohli in the Chinese zodiac) was another memorable year for the game, but not without its many ups and downs. Because cricket is but an extension of life itself and no less immune to the caprices of fate, and that's a pretty deep thing to say. Here's a recap of some of the news that made the headlines this year.
Irfan donates vertebrae to shorter team-mates
Mohammad Irfan was out missing in action for a few months earlier in the year upon becoming the first bowler in history to donate a vertebra from his back to each of his ten fellow players on the field. The bowler (and the rest of the team) underwent the complex surgery after a directive from the Pakistan Cricket Board to help prevent injury to players attempting to jump impossibly high to high-five the bowler after the fall of a wicket and injuring themselves upon impact after the fall back to earth. Remarkably, the fast bowler still stands a good foot and a half taller than his team-mates, even after the operation.
Introduction of "Moctober"
Why should guys have all the fun? Or bask hairily in the glow that comes with doing something in the name of charity?
This was the year that women cricketers took it upon themselves to match the men at their own game - growing moustaches and just letting themselves go in general for a whole month to raise awareness of health issues.
"Any man can grow a 'tache," an expert said," but it takes balls for a woman to do the same."
In what may or may not be an unrelated event, Joe Root, who has been trying and failing for as many Novembers as he can remember to grow even the semblance of a moustache for Movember, was nowhere to be found to share his comments on Moctober.
Tendulkar packing meat
The year 2014 will famously be known as the one in which Sachin Tendulkar revealed all in his bestselling memoir, Playing it My Way. If the nude centrefold was controversial and revealing enough for most people, it was his admission elsewhere in the book that he used to pack his famously heavy bat with raw meat before he went out to bat in his heyday (before they started x-raying bats for precisely this reason) that really drew the gasps.
"People talk about the meat of the bat, but not many know how much of a difference to your game two pounds of grade-A steak packed into a secret hollow carved into your willow makes," wrote Tendulkar. He went on to defend his resorting to such a method by pointing out he grew up in a strictly vegetarian household, and so was forced to improvise to obtain the much-sought-after meatier bats.
Growth in popularity of elbow-removal surgery
This was also the year that many slow bowlers, their livelihoods threatened by the vigorous crackdown on suspect bowling actions, elected to undergo a controversial new surgery that removes the elbow joint completely and replaces it with an iron shower-curtain rod that makes it impossible to bowl with a straightening arm, or indeed bowl at all, or do much of anything.
Those who have been unable to afford the expensive surgery have been left with no option but to get the procedure performed by illegal "elbow-straighteners" operating out of fly-by-night back-alley clinics. The inherent risks involved have led to the phenomenon in the next generation of spinners of the so-called "boneless-bowling arm syndrome".
Love those T20 World Cups
This will go down as the year of which no one will remember whether or not a T20 World Cup was played in it, or whether a T20 World Cup is being held next year, sometime after the 50-over World Cup, or if T20 World Cups are actually played every year or what. Pretty cool.
Un-inked skin: it's all the rage
With every passing year come newer and more extreme modes of individual expression, and 2014 was no different. It became hip this year for fast bowlers the world over to despoil the natural god-given beauty of their tattooed arms with patches of bare skin, for example. Mitchell Johnson was the first to be seen sporting a small but shocking patch of un-tattooed skin interrupting the intricate artistry of a beautiful, sunset-pink koi fish inked along his forearm. Soon, more and more bowlers could be seen with similar, increasingly sizeable patches of hideously naked, unadorned flesh. "It's going to take a lot of time, pain and money, not to mention disapproving looks from my parents," said Johnson, "but I plan to have both my forearms completely ink-free by the end of next year."
Teams allowed to play in differently coloured clothing
This was also the year where the ICC finally agreed, since the first time coloured clothing was introduced into the game by Kerry Packer, to allow teams to play in colours different to one another's on the field. "It seemed like the next logical step to take," said ICC CEO Dave Richardson, leading one to look forward to the next India v Sri Lanka ODI. Or Pakistan v South Africa. Or West Indies v Zimbabwe. Or England v Sri Lanka. Or India v Namibia. Or Australia v Chennai Super Kings.
"Afridiesque" officially added to Oxford English Dictionary
In August 2014, the Oxford English Dictionary officially added to its lexicon the word "Afridiesque", which according to the dictionary is defined as follows:
"Of, relating to, or suggestive of Shahid Afridi or his performances; especially: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality of getting himself out."
Mandatory Rohit Sharma dig
This is also the year that will be remembered for Rohit Sharma slamming a record-breaking 264 in an ODI, a feat memorable not so much for the number of runs scored as for the fact that it was Rohit Sharma who made them.
KP reveals full name in tell-all book
Lest we forget, this is also the year that the ECB and Kevin Pietersen fell out of favour with one another in spectacular fashion, prompting KP to release a tell-all book in which we not only finally learned the batsman's full name ("Kevin Pietersen"), but also were treated to a nude centrefold - not of KP but of ECB managing director Paul Downton. The book hasn't sold very many copies, but Pietersen has been quoted as saying that the inclusion of the surprise centrefold was "totally worth it".

R Rajkumar tweets @roundarmraj