BOOKS IN THE NEWS: Shoaib Akhtar's tall tales in his autobiography (Controversially Yours) didn't find resonance in India. What worked against him were his flimsy arguments on Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (' They are not match-winners'). England Graeme Swann also released his autobiography, The Breaks Are Off, and it was a laugh riot. Kevin Pietersen, who's the recipient of some of Swann's uncharitable remarks, says it was a bad idea to write about colleagues he's still playing with. Greg Chappell published his story, Fierce Focus, and says he regrets his falling out with Tendulkar when he was India's coach.
THEIR BATS ALONE DIDN'T DO THE TALKING: What is it with elegant No. 3 batsmen and powerful speeches? The year's top two Test batsmen - Rahul Dravid (at the Sir Donald Bradman Oration) and Kumar Sangakkara (at the MCC Colin Cowdrey Lecture) expounded on the game's history, current concerns and uncertain future. Both speeches won accolades for their foresight and fearless questioning of administrative follies.
AND THEY ALL FALL DOWN: Injuries were expected with so much cricket abound, but 2011 set a record for the number of players that had to pull out of tours. Teams across the world suffered with India particularly troubled. Every day of their England sojourn seemed to bring news of a new injury. Zaheer Khan's limping off on Day 1 at Lord's prompted Andrew Flintoff's prophetic tweet: "If Zaheer doesn't come back on, there goes the number 1 spot!." By the end of the 8-0 hammering over Tests, ODIs and a T20, India were operating with practically a second string side in England.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE: When Sri Lanka finished runners-up in the World Cup, the year seemed nicely set up for them. But ever since Tillakaratne Dilshan took over the captaincy from Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka haven't won a series in any format. There were also off-field problems: administrative woes, intense politics (setting up ruling party member Sanath Jayasuriya's farcical swansong) and financial problems. The team was left without wages before the ICC paid 45 percent of the delayed salaries in December. But that's not all. With Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement (above) their superstars at the end of their careers with no like-for-like replacements in sight, Sri Lanka's future doesn't appear rosy. But after the many lows, especially Cardiff where they were bowled out for 82, the win in Durban comes as a breather.
YEAR OF THE DEBUTANTS: India's Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron; South African pacers Vernon Philander and Marchant de Lange; the Australian quartet of James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Ed Cowan; young New Zealand all-rounder Doug Bracewell; West Indies top-order batsman Kirk Edwards and Bangladesh left-arm spinner Elias Sunny announced their arrivals on the international scene with eye-catching performances for their respective teams.
RIP, PETER, TIGER AND DOLLY: Cricket lost three of its biggest icons this year. Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi, 70, royalty and arguably India's finest captain succumbed to intense lung infection on September 22. Peter Roebuck, 55, former Somerset captain and the finest cricket writer of his time, met a gory end on November 12 when he jumped off his hotel room window when South African police came to arrest him for an alleged sexual assault. A week later, Basil D'Oliveira, 80, the South African-born all-rounder who played for England, and in doing so, triggered the slow demise of the cruel apartheid regime in South Africa, died November 19, due to Parkinson's disease.