A testing year for Australia. When England and Australia met in Brisbane for the start of the return Ashes, Australia hadn’t won a Test since January, and an Ashes Test since December 2010.
Retirement of Michael Hussey ensured Michael Clarke had to lead the next generation all alone. The current crop of players who won the Ashes are the ones who crossed all hurdles. Whitewash in India and loss in England, rift between players, sacking of Coach Arthur and many more.
Lots of one match wonders like Ashton Agar were identified. People like Philip Hughes and Matthew Wade were tried. But in the long run, it was again back to the core group that Australia fell. Ryan Harris, who is prone to injury, came back fit; Mitchell Johnson breathed fire; Watson, Warner and Smith learnt from their mistakes, and Brad Haddin became the improved wicket-keeper batsman.
Debutants in Chris Rogers and George Bailey impressed too. But still Australia lacked one thing – top order performance. In all the 4 Test matches (first day of the 5th Test (Jan 3) as well), the top order failed and heavy load on the middle order, especially on Haddin to save face. This will not work for long given that they are touring South Africa shortly.
Retirement – Mike Hussey
Domestic – Pine Rivers’ Nathan Murray claimed a record of five wickets in one over in Australia’s Warehouse Cricket A3 North Division. The fast bowlers claimed 5 wickets for no run in a space of 6 balls.
Low – Disciplinary action against Watson, Pattinson, Johnson and Khawaja. CA sacking Coach Mickey Arthur 16 days before the first Ashes test.
Notable Contributions – Many a times Australia were saved by their batsmen from a worst beginning. But 2013 saw bowlers making their mark as batsmen. Some innings include Mitchell Starc’s 99 against India in march; Ashton Agar, the debutant scoring 98 at Trent Bridge in the first test of the Ashes in July, the highest by a No 11 in Test cricket history; James Faulkner’s batting blitzkrieg scoring 64 from 29 balls against India, particularly Ishant Sharma, in an ODI in October.
Much improved performances marked 2013 for Bangladesh. When you see the year as a whole, Bangladesh is the only team that improved their standards in both Tests and ODIs. Though their crushing at the hands of Zimbabwe could prove fatal for the conclusion, their batting in the drawn test at Galle shuts down all doubts.
Their whitewash of New Zealand at home in ODIs was a feather in their cap. The reward for these better performances should have been an improved playing calendar 2014 but that doesn’t seem to be happening as the team again plays Sri Lanka (both home and away), Zimbabwe at home and West Indies away.
Retaining Mushfiqur Rahim as captain until 2015 world cup is an encouraging move but lack of match practice will haunt any captain. Team is no more dependent on Shakib but they look out to individual performances every time to take the team to the brim.
Record – Mohammad Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim smashed impressive centuries against Sri Lanka in Galle. Rahim notched the first double century of his country. Bangladesh amassed 638, their highest total.
Low – Mohd Ashraful’s involvement in BPL’s corruption scandal. Another low point was Bangladesh’s crushing 335-run loss to Zimbabwe in April. Their combined total in the first Test match against Zimbabwe, 281 runs, was just eight more than Zimbabwe Captain Brendan Taylor had made during the game in an epic batting effort
England won their 3rd consecutive Ashes but were destroyed to ashes in a span of less than 5 months. How unstable the team went. Added to it was the shocking exit of Trott after the first test at Gabba sighting stress and Swann’s retirement sealed the fate for the team.
Forget the Ashes tour down under, England had a fantastic year. They defeated India in India in tests; retained the Ashes, a hat-trick; reached the final at the Champions Trophy.
But in the end, things turned emotional. England has made a planned elevation to the top. They make a prolific team at home and gave players enough chance to prove themselves. But an overkill of test matches did made the team lose interest. At the start of the year England were the top team in all formats but now where are they? With the Ashes lost and a 0-4 scoreline, England starts 2014 to avoid a whitewash and to gain a moral victory.
Throughout the year England didn’t have a steady batting line-up. Alex Hales and Joe Root were tried to partner Cook but Hales faded and Root is sought as the one-down replacement to Trott. Root, with the form he was against India, one never expected his place to be in question very soon.
Kevin Pietersen is always under limelight. He needs to be pushed to perform. James Anderson seemed to be the best at home but his performances abroad were poor. Finn and Bresnan remains in the dressing. Cook scored hugely during the last Ashes in Australia but this time he hasn’t scored. At the end, England has a new opener in Carberry, a new all-rounder in Stokes and a lot of fear. They are on top in the first session but rest of the sessions they gift to the opponent.
Retirement – Graeme Swann’s premature retirement may be considered as freedom given to the players but where is his replacement?
High – Retaining the Ashes at home with a 3-0 victory
Low – Definitely the surrender of the Ashes in the return tour.
India became the number one in ODIs. They didn’t lose a ODI series at home. Had the tour to the Rainbow nation went as planned, there might have been good performance in ODIs as well. Spot fixing in IPL and several controversies in the administration affected the team but the Champions Trophy victory was the sought after treatment for the wound. They lost the historic ODI series against Pakistan at the start of the year though. Hunt on for replacements for Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar but was able to find great promises who have showcased their talent at home.
Champions Trophy became a much needed break for Team India. After all those that happened over 2 months at home, Dhoni and Co looked much relieved when they landed in UK for the final edition of the title. Fittingly, India didn’t lose a game and went on to win the title beating the host nation in a T20 encounter. The team looked better in confidence looking back at their plight when the team last toured the nation. A Gangnam style celebration and happiness all around. Talks on coach Duncan Fletcher’s sacking subsided.
Focusing on the 2015 world cup, India sacked non-performers in Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer and Harbhajan who were supposed to be the core of the team. Tough decision taken by the administrators but given that India played almost the whole year at home, new kids showed their talent. But team still lacks quality bowlers. The road ahead in 2014 is hectic as the team keeps on touring. One wonders how mentally fit they will be when the world cup begins.
Notable Contributions – M Vijay became the first Indian to make 2 successive 150-plus scores. Cheteshwar Pujara made a double hundred handling the pressure of being termed as the next Rahul Dravid. Shikar Dhawan will remember his test debut innings for long. His 85 ball century is the fastest by a debutant in tests. He became the fourth Indian batsman after Sehwag(twice), Polly Umirgar and Azhar to post 100 runs or more between lunch and tea.
Domestic – Wasim Jaffer scales Ranji Peak. Jaffer accomplished 2 unique landmarks – of becoming both the highest run-getter and century-maker in Ranji Trophy
High – India whitewash Australia. Wins Border-Gavaskar trophy 4-0. First time India has won a series 4-0. The thumping draw at Wanderers gives a fitting farewell to the year but the loss at Durban will question Dhoni’s captaincy.
Low – Its worse to see a tour cut short due to administrative issues.
Retirements – Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid signed off from all formats. Ajit Agarkar, after struggles to get to top fitness and a dream to represent the nation again, quit the game.
Pakistan won an ODI series against India but nothing more to boast about. They became the first team in more than three years to beat India in a bilateral series at home. But they were sent crashing for 49 by Steyn & Co in the first test, their lowest ever. Defeat by 24 runs at the hands of Zimbabwe in Harare was a low point in 2013. Better performance against West Indies was a breather. Playing at neutral venues as home games is a factor towards nil improvement. No point blaming the coach. The team has to get into the grove to win games. PCB has to make sure the team gets enough opportunity before the 2015 world cup.
Off-Field – With the ghost surrounding the spot fixing scandal slowly diminishing, a British tabloid ‘Daily Mail’ raised concerns over the tied ODI between WI and Pak. A Pak official responded as “Every time our team starts doing well or wins a series, these baseless reports come up”.
When Saeed Ajmal said that there is nothing special about Whatmore, people were puzzled about the relationship between the Pak team and their coach. “There is no difference, just that we are paying more to him, otherwise there is no difference” – Ajmal told a Pak TV channel.
High – Their high point is winning a test against South Africa in Abu Dhabi snapping South Africa’s 2 year unbeaten run. But they were bowled out for 99 in the next game.
Low – Test loss to Zimbabwe
Day 2 of the year and New Zealand were blown away for 45 against South Africa with only Kane Williamson reaching double figures with a score of 13, eighth lowest in test history. Their innings lasted only 19.2 overs. One never can sum up New Zealand cricket of 2013 exactly. Players left, players performed, team lost hugely, team had moral victories, shone brightly as a team, had performers but like always lacked consistency. Had a whitewash against Bangladesh but no post-mortem done. On the whole, a roller coaster year.
There are few times when victory was denied. Against England, first 2 tests ended in draws but the third test was a dramatic draw. Their bowlers couldn’t pick up the last wicket, in the process handing Prior his 7th test 100. They couldn’t break the Prior-Panesar partnership. They denied themselves a series victory. Against WI, rain might have saved the visitors but again NZ couldn’t get that one wicket. Where does the home advantage go?
Record – Ross Taylor became the second New Zealander to score centuries in three consecutive Tests.
Low – The Cape Town “45”. It was the country’s third-lowest total and the shortest Test innings of all time (19.2 overs). Even the 26 all out, in 1955, lasted 27 overs.
Retirement – New Zealand’s most underrated but most successful player Chris Martin hung up his boots after 12 years. He has 233 test wickets, the third highest for his country. Martin has been an integral part of the team while playing at home.
Best Debutant – Who other than Mitchell McClenaghan can even be nominated? He has taken 35 wickets in the 14 ODIs he played in 2013. He has been a revelation in tests against West Indies.
Dale Steyn started with his 300th test scalp against NZ and finished the year with 350 wickets against India. Jacques Kallis passed 13000 test runs against NZ and finished retiring by overcoming Dravid to become the 3rd highest run getter in tests. South Africa won the test maze and remained number one throughout the year.
If I say that South Africa has performed wonderfully throughout the year then it will be a lie. They lost as many number of ODIs as they won. They even lost their home ODI series against Pakistan and New Zealand and struggled in Sri Lanka. South Africa have a package of options to choose from. Only that picking the right combination for the day is missing. Dropping Graeme Smith for Quinton de Kock looked like a better idea but still he has performed well only in T20s and last 3 ODIs of the year.
Retirement – When Tendulkar retired, every head turned towards Jacques Kallis – the only cricketer of the previous era. Many people followed cricket for these legends. Kallis, like his nature, chose to announce his retirement in a calm way. The announcement came through CSA. No special exit, no special plans. But unlike others greats of his time, Kallis decided to quit tests and prolong his career in shorter format. He has been part of many great South African teams but always fumbled at the summit. That naturally would have triggered him to be part of 2015 world cup, one final time, given that South Africa are already number one in tests.
Record – 100 tests as captain for Graeme Smith. Incredible record indeed.
Low – More than the loss to Pakistan, the drawn test at Wanderers against India is the low point for SA. Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers steered the chase with hundreds, but when du Plessis was run out taking a risky single, South Africa needed 16 runs from 19 balls. They chose to play safe and played out a draw.
Little could be said about Sri Lankan performance in 2013. Their international itinerary was postponed to accommodate SLPL which got cancelled later due to owners not providing bank guarantees. In the end, the players had fewer games and are in a fix given that the ICC tournaments nearing.
With Jayawardene and Sangakkara fast nearing retirement, the SL administrators should have ensured a profitable 2013 for their next generation. Instead the new captains still remain new and team is yet to find the replacement for Muralitharan in Rangana Herath and the new T20 captain Chandimal hasn’t had a chance to move on. Their test specialist Thilan Samaraweera retired considering the long gap between his last test and the next one. In ODI’s though SL performed well. They beat South Africa at home.
Retirement – Thilan Samaraweera, the test specialist and Dilshan quit tests to enable an youngster to get into the team early.
Low – SL played just 3 tests in 2013
A T20I world cup victory in 2012 and we all dreamt of a rising West Indies camp but only to see them slide in reality. Darren Bravo though continued his good form and his match saving double hundred at the end of the year in New Zealand speaks volumes of his ability and they still have Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The disappointing part of the team is the manner in which they approach games. Across formats, it’s the same set of players who play but still they don’t achieve something together. Fitness issues of their main bowlers and batting stalwarts is a concern and added to that is the suspension of Shane Shillingford, their productive bowler last year, for illegal action.
Marlon Samuels also got caught for illegal action at a certain speed. Prolific batsmen in Gayle and Pollard are more inclined towards the shortest format which does affect the top order batting in away conditions. There wasn’t any high or low for West Indies in 2013 given that their wins were spoiled by their own loss.
Record – Chanderpaul crossed 11000 test runs
Low – 3 innings defeats
Great games, committed players and unforgettable moments but all short-lived. That’s the story of Zimbabwe in 2013. Player strike for payment, Ray Price retirement, Craig Ervine and Kyle Jarvis movement from country to county cricket makes up for a sad ‘Replay 2013′. These debt’s ruin Zimbabwe cricket. How long do you think the Cricket Board can manage?
High – In the first time in 12 years, Zimbabwe beat a major Test-playing nation in a Test match when they defended a target of 264 against Pakistan in Harare.