VEDANT SHARMA | 1 JANUARY, 2019
The year’s contests changed the perspective of the game
Resilience was the feature of the year 2018 with of course cricket taking the center of attention. The cricketing calendar throughout the year was highly eventful. A blend of exponential growth with several lackluster shows made this year look quite different from the past and with hope for the future.
Gone are the days when a contest between Australia and Bangladesh was expected to fall in mighty Australia’s pocket. Teams around the world were able to notch their game standards higher and improved dramatically.
In terms of the action on the 22 yards, where some teams mastered the art of scoring over 300 runs, others helped their side cross the winning line with lethal bowling skills. In all, 2018 changed the perspective of the game. With so many match-winning performances and nail-biting encounters which went down to the wire, with hunger, aggression, calmness, self-assessment and much more in it, here are the Top 5 moments that probably defined this calendar year.
1. Virat - The Run Machine
2018 proved to be no different for this sensational talent. Churning runs and tons throughout the year, across all formats of the game, Kohli defined his fortitude in the game. Despite being rested on a few occasions he managed to score over 2,700 runs in the calendar year - making cricket fans wonder if Virat Kohli would have broken the record for most runs by an Indian batsman or even any batsman in a calendar year, if he had played in the Asia Cup at least.
Kohli’s 2,735 runs were the second highest by an Indian batsman in a year and the fourth highest by any batsman. The Indian skipper scored 1,202 runs in ODIs with an astonishing average of 133.55, and a strike rate of 102.55. In all Kohli was able to set an example for his teammates, eventually helping others raise their game and play to their true potential.
2. The Rise of Afghanistan
It wouldn't be wrong to say that 2018 will be a year to remember for Afghanistan cricket. With plenty already written in recent years about the team’s rise in the international arena, the World Cup prelude year was the right time for this Asian nation to show their weight. The World Cup qualifiers held in Zimbabwe this year were probably the best chance for these men-in-blue to show what they’ve got, and it must be said that even though they just managed to reserve a spot in the Super Sixes, they were able to up their game in the latter half of the tournament - which eventually helped them to beat the Windies in the final.
After the morale boosting performance in Zimbabwe, the team continued to show their true character and demolished some big teams throughout the year. The Asia Cup was another instance, where we saw how the Afghanistan team adapts to given conditions and plays according to the requirements of the hour. Winning both the group stages games, followed by closely fought games against Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, tells fans of the wider picture that they have something even more special lined up for the coming year.
3. The Downfall of Big Teams
Even the greatest of athletes have faced shattering defeats, only to rebound from the tunnel of doom and gloom to reach new heights. The greatest virtue of a mind-numbing loss is to build on the lessons from such a defeat, and use it as a motivating tool. However, some big teams like Sri Lanka and Australia who suffered a string of losses in games both home and away, weren’t quite able to bounce back and show their real character.
On one hand, the Australian team lost two quality players, Steven Smith and David Warner, due to the sandpaper ball tampering incident, and on the other the Sri Lankan team couldn't stick to a combination - and more importantly to a skipper. This probably shaped their performances, which are otherwise known to everyone who watches this beautiful game closely.
4. The Rise of Domestic Indian Cricket
The incarnation of the Indian Premier League back in 2008 came with the idea of putting domestic players through the grind. After 11 editions of the much-watched league, Indian cricket has been fortunate to have had some exceptional talents eventually make it to the international circuit.
But this year was a little different from years before. Players like Shivam Dube, Dhruv Shorey, Prashant Chopra, Jatin Saxena, Rajneesh Gurbani, and many others set the stage and have let their game do all the talking - in almost all domestic tournaments. After the 2019 World Cup it's almost certain that there will be a paradigm shift in Indian cricket. With a few retiring, and a few who may be sidelined, these stars may well make it to the final 15 member Indian squad.
5. Bowler Domination
In cricket, it has been said that a five-wicket haul is equal to a century scored - but almost every year more centuries have been scored than five-wicket hauls. However, in 2018 the year of resilience, bowlers dominated the action. The year saw lethal pace attacks, big turns, and skiddy bounce - not to mention some stellar fielding - all of which helped teams register more five-wicket hauls than centuries.
The sporting battle between bowlers and batsmen, and the unending competition makes this game so special for the 22 players on the field, and for the millions watching. The year 2018 will probably go down as one of the most balanced yet exciting years in the recent history of the sport.