A month-by-month guide to the next 12 months of international cricket, with a special focus on India, because, let's face it, if it weren't for us you'd still be competing in boring week-long exhibitions of bowling outside leg stump in order to win a little wooden eggcup. Instead today you are enjoying delectable well-played cricket starring well-paid men in well-made uniforms in places like Kochi, the winners lifting elegant, tasteful trophies made of precious metals.
Setting aside losses to Australia in the first two Test matches, India begin the year auspiciously, with victory in the third Test, in Perth. The Indian batting line-up finally clicks, with all the frontline batsmen, barring Tendulkar, scoring centuries. The cricket world is agog when Tendulkar is given out caught off his helmet to a rank no-ball by James Pattinson. But without the DRS, the little master has no option but to walk back in front of a stunned, silent full house. India effortlessly bowl Australia out twice in the next two days to secure a famous victory. With Tendulkar's century no longer on the cards, the turnout for the last two days is poor. Only only one Mr Nathan Woodward, a retired librarian, is present in the audience when India secure victory. Shortly before the end of the match Virat Kohli runs up to him and calls him a "shit-faced halfwit". The ICC docks 55% of Kohli's match fee. At the post-match press conference Tendulkar, while slowly crushing a can of sports drink in his hands, denies that the pressure of the century is affecting him at all.
Elsewhere, South Africa crush Sri Lanka 5-0 in the ODI series, with Marchant de Lange taking an aggregate of 26 wickets and scoring 200 runs. de Lange is dropped from the side.
The month ends on a positive note, with Stuart Broad delivering the Jennifer Capriati Oration in Athens, where he tells a spellbound audience: "The world is changing. Right before your eyes. Now I've found you, there's no more emptiness inside. When we're hungry, love will keep us alive."
In the first T20, in Sydney, Australia set India a daunting target of 280. India win with three overs to spare after Sehwag scores 184. Later R Ashwin tells the press: "It was a great game to win. But there was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers."
The second T20 will always be memorable for Tendulkar's scintillating 89 off just 46 balls, after which he is bowled by a slow yorker from Shane Watson. On replay it is clear that the ball was easily missing leg stump, but without the DRS, the little master has no option but to walk back in front of a stunned, silent full house. Later Tendulkar dispels all rumours of undue pressure on him at a press conference where he cradles his bat in his lap and whispers to it tenderly between answering questions from the media.
Pakistan and England both go home happy after the series held in the UAE. England win two Tests, three ODIs and all the T20 matches, and Pakistan are thrilled after Shahid Afridi plays the entire series without retiring. (Except for a brief moment on the Dubai-Sharjah highway, due to a misunderstood text message.)
Pakistan rue their premature celebrations as Afridi promptly retires from all forms of the game "provisionally until further notice, subject to market risks and passport verfication, no divorcees please". Meanwhile the PCB reassures fans that they are very close to announcing the new coaching staff.
In the Commonwealth Bank tri-series in Australia, the Indian batsmen plunder runs, while Sourav Ganguly is impressed with the bowlers: "There is a new bite in this attack, with Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Arun." Tendulkar, who plays ODIs with renewed vigour, is Man of the Series, with scores of 86, 74, 32, 92, 68 and finally, thank god, 34.
Indian bowlers wreak havoc on the friendly pitches in Bangladesh during the Asia Cup. Ganguly sums it up nicely when he says on air: "Seldom has India seen an attack with the quality of Sharma, Khan and Juan Peron." "Maybe," responds Ashwin, "but dada, there was nothing here for the bowlers."
There are some Test matches and ODIs and all in April, but the focus is on the Indian Premier League T20 tournament being held by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in India. Once again Pakistani players are refused permission to participate, leaving an enraged Afridi no option but to retire on the spot. "This is an auxiliary retirement, pending developments hitherto and is not a forward-looking statement," Afridi clarifies.
The tournament is dominated by Royal Challengers Bangalore, who storm into the final, as do the Mumbai Indians. The Indians come into the final firing on all cylinders, with Tendulkar having scored half a dozen 100-plus scores in the tournament. However, Kohli single-finger-dly takes Bangalore to victory with a stunning all-round performance. Ravi Shastri gives away the Man of The Match award: a Hero Honda motorcycle. Kohli gets on the motorcycle, speeds out of the stadium, and runs over several departing audience members, screaming "Die spawn of Satan! Die!" The ICC docks 37.5% of his match fees.
"This close," says a PCB spokesman, holding up his thumb and index fingers a hair's breadth from each other when the press ask him how close the board is to appointing a new coach.
Tendulkar assures the press that despite rapidly running out of opportunities to complete the mythical tonth ton in 2012, he is not fazed. "The 100th century has had no impact on my personal or professional life and things carry on as normal. I am not allowing this pressure, media attention or milestone to affect my state of mind in any way," he said at the amusing press conference, where his answers were all set to the music of popular hits by the Bee Gees.
In a hard-hitting editorial in Wisden, Sourav Ganguly lambasts the BCCI for its wayward bowler-development programme: "If we don't nurture them well," he writes with rage coursing through his veins, "we will soon ruin the likes of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bugatti Veyron."
The cricketing world is moved to tears when, in Montevideo, Ashwin delivers the 34th annual Vinod Kambli Declamation for Cricketers Who Are Very Much Unretired. Ashwin tells a stunned audience that currently cricket stands at a crossroads, with competing formats leeching the life out of the game, and "there is simply nothing in this pitch for the bowlers".
There is a huge controversy during the third West Indies-England Test match, at Edgbaston. With West Indies needing 241 to win in a day and a half, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is given out caught-behind, after scoring 17 from 234 balls. But England captain Andrew Strauss calls him back because the fielder "thought he had grounded the ball". Several hours later Chanderpaul is given out leg-before to a Stuart Broad delivery, now having scored 18 from 536 balls. Again Strauss calls him back because "Broad felt he had clearly chucked the ball". Chanderpaul returns for a second time but is unable to take West Indies to victory; they fall short by 214 runs. Immediately the media charges Strauss with gamesmanship. The ICC quickly investigates, rules against Strauss, and docks √234.34 % of Kohli's match fees.
Thankfully the first half of the year ends on an uplifting note after the 11th Annual Sunil Gavaskar Address by Up and Coming Cricketing Talent is delivered, to worldwide acclaim, by Sunil Gavaskar.
Tune in soon for the second half of this year in preview.