Friday, January 28, 2011

Place your Advertisement here

There is something fundamentally wrong with cricket telecast in India. The world's largest cricket consuming audience is being given a sub-standard product. Switch over to Star Cricket's telecast of Channel Nine's coverage of the Ashes and the current Australia-England one-day tournament if you don't believe me. In the way cricket is telecast in India we are only seeing one aspect of the game and that is ball by ball action. What we don't see anymore, is the bowlers reaction to a wicket, or a batsman raising his bat on the way out after a fantastic knock. All these moments of the game, which are very much a part and parcel of the game, are cruelly snatched away from us by a LG or Asian Paints advertisement. It has become so bad now, that when the telecast comes back after an advertisement, the bowler is in mid run-up, and when it cuts to advertisement, the fielder has barely gathered the ball before throwing it to the keeper.


As a cricket consumer myself I can frankly say that I am pissed off at Ten Cricket and Asian Paints, I wouldn't want to use Royale Play to paint my wall, because you buggers spoilt my match. But what choice do I have, unlike with Royale Play, where I can chose to go with Berger instead, I don't really have that option when it comes to cricket. If ten cricket is broadcasting the match, I have no choice but to pay an extra thirty bucks to Airtel, and ask them to give me ten cricket. And after doing so, what do I get, another advertisement fest, which cuts out at least 20% of the viewable action in each game. It's getting to the point where it seems more ads and less cricket, with the pop up ads jumping onto the screen and destroying the cricket field, leaving me aghast at the tastelessness and the intrusion.


Who is to blame for this situation, some would say that it's the corporates who buy these advertisement spots, who want ads in every corner of the television screens, or is it the telecasters for being unscrupulous in creating advertisement spots and robbing the viewing public of a holistic cricketing experience, some would blame the BCCI or other cricketing boards, for selling rights at such astronomical figures leaving telecasters with no other viable revenue option. In my opinion it is the cricketing public in India which is to blame.


As a consumer we Indians, are extremely price, rather than quality driven. If the price is right, we usually buy it, quality is not a determining factor. Why Sky Sports in England and Channel Nine in Australia can still provide excellent top quality coverage and keep advertisements down to nothing is due to the fact that their business model is a subscriber driven one. With the advent of DTH and CAS, India is moving towards a subscriber driven revenue model, but this is more of an urban phenomena in India and has not yet penetrated the majority of the cricket viewing audience. Without a subscriber driven model and at the current rates at which cricket boards sell rights, there is no way for telecasters to make money without copious amounts of advertising. This is displayed by the fact that during the IPL, you could get an ad free HD coverage of the action, at an extra cost. This is going to be available from ESPNSTAR even during the upcoming world cup.


Some may call this point of view a bit pedantic, in the fact, that how does it matter if we miss a little bit of the reactions of players, celebration of bowlers etc., as long as we are getting a match at a cheap price. Well I would just like to say that, would the enormity of what happened at the Eden Gardens in 1996 against Sri Lanka been the same in our minds, had we not seen Kambli walk off the pitch crying, and instead had gone straight to an advertisement of Lays. The beauty, poetry and artistry of the game, of any game, lies in the human reaction, which at that moment of pure joy or anguish, is as genuine a moment as any of us will witness in our increasingly artificial and mechanical world. The joy and anguish of victory and defeat is something which cannot be divorced from any sport, which is sadly being done with cricket in India, and it's about time that the people, who are supposed to be the guardians of the game, do something about it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Team India – The World Cup, It’s here

On the 17th of January 2011, the BCCI announced the final 15, representing India in the tournament of all tournaments in the game of cricket, the ODI World Cup. This Cup seems to have been in Aussie possession for too long and now that the little urn has gone away for a while it seems, the World Cup is the only other Cricket Memorabilia which the Aussie's seem to care about, and it's about time someone took that away as well. But who, is the question, everyone is asking themselves. Australia are chased closely by India, Sri Lanka and South Africa in the ODI Rankings (if that is any indication) and it's not inconceivable to imagine that England and maybe even Pakistan can pose tough questions of the current champions.

The team announced did not surprise too many, barring maybe the omission of Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha and the inclusion of Piyush Chawla out of the blue, the team consists of:

M.S. Dhoni
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Ghambir
Yuvraj Singh
Suresh Raina
Virat Kohli
Yusuf Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
Praveen Kumar
Zaheer Khan
Ashish Nehra
Munaf Patel
Piyush Chawla
R. Ashwin

There are a large number of spinners in this team, both specialist and part time, and considering that the matches are going to be played in the Indian Sub-continent, the performance of the spinners could be one of the deciding factors during the course of the tournament. In one day internationals, the Indian spinners, especially the part time spinners, like Yuvraj, Raina and Pathan do exceedingly well, especially within Indian conditions. A problem which may occur in team selection, would be whether to pick 3 specialist seamers along with Harbhajan Singh because we have enough variety in the part time spin department, in which case R. Ashwin and Piyush Chawla may never see the inside of a cricket field, other than to bring a bottle of water across, or would they pick 2 specialist seamers as well as 2 specialist spinners.

Another interesting factor this time around, is that the current Indian team set-up, has only 4 slots available within the squad of 15. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer walk into this team without any issues. The selection variables come up in the form of, whether to play 2 specialist batsmen like Raina and Kohli or to play Pathan as a bowling all-rounder at No. 7. If the selectors decide to go with Pathan, it then becomes the question of whether to pick Raina or Kohli. Raina has played well in the past few years for India, but has been found wanting against the short ball, in tests as well as ODI's. Virat Kohli on the other hand seems to be in a rich vein of form, and seems to have shed some of his earlier bad habits and turned his game around. It will be a tough call for the selectors considering Raina is a perennial favorite of MS Dhoni and is a handy part time off-spinner apart from being a fantastic fielder. His potential to contribute in a game is beyond question and would take an extremely bullish and courageous selector or captain for that matter, to drop him from the playing 11. I guess the answer to this question only lies with Dhoni's astrologist.

The question of which seamers to play along with Zaheer Khan may be an issue as none of the other three seamers have really overshadowed the other, whether they pick Munaf, Nehra or Kumar to accompany Zaheer could be dependent on the nature of the wicket as well as how well either of them is bowling in the warm-up matches just before the tournament begins. Whether Zaheer and the other seamers can reverse swing the old ball will be crucial as well and could pose many a problem to batsmen during the tournament.

Another problem which India face is that they do not have an all-rounder, in the mould of Kallis or Shane Watson, but that may not have too much of a role to play in a sub-continental world cup. All this being said, this Indian team in my view, has an excellent mix of experienced cricketers and young cricketers, last seen maybe in the team of 2003. Can they go one better than that team, hopefully in April and not before that, we will know. I for one, can't wait to find out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Whatta Choke!!!!

It was 12:15 am, South Africa were on their way to an easy victory. At the end of the 31st over, the score read South Africa 145/4 with Smith batting on 75, they needed 49 runs from the remaining 19 overs at a required run rate of 2.42 per over and Dhoni seemed in no mood to attack and force the issue. It was getting boring, I was just about to switch of the television and start watching an episode of Breaking Bad, but then, South Africa took the batting power-play. Quickly, the field went from a 4-5 field, to a 6-3 field, suddenly the singles didn't seem all that easy, MS Dhoni brought back Munaf, and with his first ball, he knocked over Graeme Smith, it was game on, Breaking Bad could wait.

That was the turning point, from that point on, the Indian team seemed suddenly on top. Granted that they had the rub of the green with the decision against Johan Botha, where he was given out LBW to Zaheer for outside edging the ball in-front of the stumps, but all in all, the wind went out of the sails of the South African ship, the moment they lost Smith. That's when the choking began, there were merely 18 power-play deliveries left, they needed 35 runs from a 102 deliveries, surely they could afford to play out 18 deliveries. But instead they didn't, they went for crazy singles, which led to the run out of Dale Steyn and play extravagant cuts against a attacking off-side field. It was in-explicable, they could take as many deliveries as they wanted, block as many balls, the wicket really wasn't doing much, the bowlers were sharp, but they weren't really bowling wicket taking deliveries, the only thing they were doing better, was holding there nerve.

MS Dhoni once again kept a cool head under pressure, and this is the greatest value he brings to the team. I am still not convinced of MS Dhoni's field placings, which in my view are usually too defensive, especially in test cricket, and neither am I too convinced in regards the team selection, though I am sure he is not the only person who has a say in that. However, the one thing I am convinced about, is that notwithstanding all the above reservations, he is a very capable captain. Nothing seems to faze him, he takes victory and defeat equally in his stride. This is his hallmark and seems to have become the hallmark of this Indian team, they have very rightly earned the title of the bounce-back kings and I hope this trend continues in the future, especially with the World Cup around the corner.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

We’re No.1 – Well Whoopty doo

The last ten overs of Day 4 and Day 5 of the final test match of the 3 match series between India and South Africa confused me slightly. This was a contest between the 1st and 2nd rank test team in the world, then why why in the world were they playing the way they were. Now I understand a lot has been said and written about this already, saying it was a "fair result" and so on and so forth. Well, yeah 1-1 is fair if you didn't want to win, if you wanted to win and you wanted to win badly, then 1-1 is a smack in the nuts. This is something which stood out about the Australian test team and the Australian Cricket team in general during the 1990's and and till around 2008, they hated losing. Yes, sometimes they went too far, as they did in the Sydney Test against India in order to secure a win, but in general the Australian team for a good part of 20 years made a habit out of winning, and it was born out of an extreme distaste for losing or even drawing a game.

The South African strategy was a bit puzzling for me in the last 1 hour of day 4, when they were already 300 plus runs ahead. An aggressive team with two of the best bowlers in the world may have been inclined to declare after Kallis's hundred and give themselves an 8-10 over burst at the batsmen before stumps, these 10 overs may have produced a couple of wickets and then day 5 would have taken on a completely different tone. However, they didn't declare, instead they got all out on the last ball of the day and set India a chase  of 340 on the last day.

The Indian strategy for Day 5 was quite apparent. It was apparent from Harbhajan Singh's press conference post Day 4. He was asked to comment on India's chances to chase down the South African total and all he could say was that we need some "fire crackers" (whatever that means) from Viru. There was a sense, that if Virender Sehwag comes off, we can make a fight of it, otherwise let's just draw this and go home with a smile on our face. Well, depending on Virender Sehwag to get away to a flier in a test match second innings aborad against the most potent opening new ball pair in the world, was like depending on the MET department to forecast the weather. Now don't get me wrong, I am not going after Viru because of one bad series. I'm simply saying that he has done it once before in tests, albeit in a memorable fashion, but it was done in Indian conditions and that to only once. In all his tests, Virender Sehwag has been a 1st innings player, his second innings average is quite poor also he has not been the most reliable of our batsmen in the situation which the team found itself facing on day 5, and to therefore rely on him alone was slightly ambitious and foolhardy to say the least.

There seemed to be no belief that this Indian team which has pulled of two improbable chases in 2010 and one very difficult one, could make a match of this. There was no quiet confidence that, "hey we've done this before, maybe we'll do it again". It was not that naïve to think that, we have Sachin in the best form of his life, Gambhir rediscovering his touch, and that man VVS who has been there and done it and done it again, may be we could fashion something more memorable than a draw. Watching test cricket all these years, I assumed that, that's what No. 1 teams do. That's what Australia did time and time again, they did it with such alarming regularity that it became near inevitable for a while. So when team India became No. 1 and then went to South Africa and beat South Africa in Durban, yanking the rug from under their feet, along with the momentum in the series, I expected on Day 5 that they would have the confidence to go for it. It was improbable to win at the PCA Stadium in Mohali with Laxman having back spasms and only Ishant and Ojha for company, but we did, so was it so improbable to expect them to give it a shot here.

MS Dhoni in his post-match press conference said that he was disappointed that they couldn't break the partnership between Kallis and Boucher quickly and that they gave away too many runs to the tail hence taking the match beyond India's reach. Well no one asked him, why didn't you give it a shot anyway. Was it so improbable a target for an Indian team which aspires to greatness? In the chase during the 2nd Border Gavaskar test at Bangalore, Sehwag failed in the second innings chase, he fell for a single digit score, so Dhoni sent in Pujara who was in his debut test, at No. 3., Rahul Dravid had been struggling so Dhoni thought that maybe Pujara could give the innings the impetus needed to get the chase going, it worked, Pujara scored 72 runs of 89 balls in the second innings of his debut test in a run chase. Was it then such a stretch of the imagination, to send in VVS Laxman at No. 3 at Cape Town, the man who has done it time and again for India, a man who is no doubt, the form of his life, who in Durban once again proved that he can bat fluently in conditions where other batsmen can't even survive.

I don't purport to be an expert in cricket strategy and I can't really predict what was going on in Dhoni's mind when it came to this run chase. But I can say this much, that while giving his post-match press conference, it came through that as a captain Dhoni preferred to draw the series than entertaining even the slightest chance of losing it. It is quite sad though, as this series and especially this test match, which produced so many memorable moments, definitely deserved a more fitting finale than an anticlimactic draw. And if India does wish to maintain its number 1 ranking and continue improving and touring better, I hope that this 1-1 felt like a smack in the nuts, and not a "fair result".

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another HairBrained Scheme

Eureka, I have found it, the key to success in cricket, it's the hair weave. Whether it is Virender Sehwag, Harsha Bhogle or most recently Jacques Kallis, hair weaves have invariably led to success. Ricky Ponting made it famous and got runs, Shane got his and got wickets, though I'll bet he still claims that those wickets were thanks to painfully petrified English batsmen and pure talent on his part.

Hair weaves and cricket go hand in hand these days, recently some Indians have joined the bandwagon as well, Virender Sehwag for instance, who embraced a question regarding the brand new mop with a brilliant sehwagesque on liner "accha dikhoge to acha bikoge". Basically as per Sehwag it was merely a strategic investment as shampoo ads only go to people with hair. Well no one can really argue with that kind of logic, except with a, "well bra ads only go to people with breasts, just because you don't have them, doesn't mean you have to go get them", but the point would be lost on him anyway. Well one can't argue with the form he has displayed since the weave, barring the current South Africa series, he has decimated bowling line ups while claiming "I hit only bad balls".

I love the smell of Shampoos, that's why


Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri are two cricket commentators who have had their hair woven at various points of time, Harsha being the most recent of the two. Why a TV personality like Harsha, who has spent the better part of the last two decades appearing on Indian television without a single hair on the top of his head, suddenly go all Sreesanth on us.


Jacques Kallis's current form is giving more force to this theory especially in the third test match at Cape Town. Kallis has been on a different trip completely since his new hair arrived in the mail, and has been making the Indian bowlers think longingly of the good old bald days. So completely horrible he has been to the Indian bowlers in this series that people seem to have forgotten that he had a fantastic record against India to begin with, this performance has been nothing short of a legendary performance by an old pro. Well his herculean effort on Day 4 has ensured that this series has one more fantastic day left in store, with hopefully enough suspense to leave us tearing out the little left of our hair.

I shan't be bowling there young man!!!

However, the true litmus test for this theory, the only way to prove its validity beyond a shadow of a doubt, would be to wait for Ishant Sharma or Sreesanth (pick your favourite) to lose all that hair, get some woven back and realize their true potential as cricketers.


And I would request Bhajji to stop telling Sreesanth that he looks good in that headband, the joke has gone on long enough, please tell him to take it off now.





















Monday, January 3, 2011

The potential of Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma is 6 feet 4 inches tall, almost the same height as Morne Morkel. He used to bowl in a similar manner, a nagging back of the length delivery which would jag back off the seam at an uncomfortable and awkward height. That is the same style of bowling which famously had Ricky Ponting hopping around like a bunny back in 2008 on Ishant's maiden tour down under. He somewhere down the line lost that style of bowling, maybe it was due to frequent injury, maybe it was a drop in pace, maybe it was t20 cricket, who knows. But one thing is for sure, his bowling for the last year and some change, hasn't been looking particularly pleasing. The potential is immense, as was on full display where he took out Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in an inspired bowling spell at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, but he has been erratic at best.


The reason why MS Dhoni and Co. seem to be committed to Ishant and seem to be giving him an extended run in the Indian side, where many a bowler may have been dropped by now, is the claim that Ishant is one of the most hard working and earnest players in the team. His down to earth attitude and earnestness seems to have endeared him to many members in the Indian squad, and was on display in the one chance encounter I have had with him.


Sometime back in March 2008, I was going back to college in Bangalore after completing an internship in Delhi, I had just been cleared through security check at the domestic departure terminal of the Delhi airport, when I spotted this tall gangly fellow sitting in a corner listening to music on his i-pod. People were pointing at him, and a few went up and asked him to pose for a picture. Well I decided to do so as well:

Anyhow, after obliging me and posing for yet another photo, he politely tried to put his earphones back in, so that he could listen to music in peace for a while before the next cricket crazy loon comes and asks for an autograph and/or a snap. But no, I wasn't going to let him that moment of peace, and would go on to say "Dude, you really bowled well in Australia, really nailed Ponting, killer". He sheepishly muttered thanks, and I could tell he was hoping that I would now go away and leave him be, but I wasn't having any of that. I then went on to say, "but dude I heard you injured your finger and you won't be playing for a while, can you show me". Now please understand, I wasn't being obnoxious, neither was I giving him the impression that I was a sports doctor, I was plain and simple curious, I always imagined that a cricket injury would have to be monstrous to prevent a guy from playing cricket. Also you don't get such an opportunity to ask a cricketer to show you an injury which is preventing them from playing a match, sometimes they pull their groins, you can't then say "show me" and don't even get me started on Shoaibh Akhtar's unmentionable injuries. Anyway, I think I got sidetracked somewhere, yes back to Ishant. He then proceeded to show me his finger (index only), after a quick look and not being too impressed I was on the verge off saying "man, that's nothing, you guys are such babies"; when better sense prevailed and I simply said, "dude that's nasty, you take care of that" and happily walked away.


The purpose of the above ramble was to prove that if Ishant can show the utmost patience in dealing with a cricket nut like me, making the most bizarre requests like show me your finger, he should display some of that earnestness and patience on the field, where he definitely has the talent and the potential to bowl well, he just has to be patient, maintain his line, length, pace and his belief. If he does so, I have no doubt that he will emerge as the perfect foil for Zaheer Khan and India will finally have something that will aid them, especially on foreign tours, in maintaining their No. 1 ranking, a potent opening pace attack. All No. 1 teams have had it, and India desperately need it. He has displayed some form during the latter part of the second test and now on the first day of the third test. Here's to hoping that 2011 is a good year for him, and if it is, India will have taken a small but crucial step in their consolidation of the No. 1 test spot.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Test Year in Review: My Test Team for 2010

As I bid adieu to the year 2010, one of my fondest memories of the year will be my memories of cricket, be it Sachin's Double Century against South Africa in an ODI match, creating yet another record and scaling yet another unscaled peak, or be it VVS's brutal yet sublime destruction of the Australians at the PCA Stadium Mohali, winning once again against Kangaroo's where victory seemed improbable.

At the outset, I would like to point out that with respect to the batsmen, the test team I am about to describe, is one based on the position that the particular batsman bats in the batting order, whether he is an opener or a number 6 batsman. I am not listing out the 6 best batsmen of the year, but the best batsman at their designated position. As a consequence of this exercise I may miss out on some of the best performers overall, who were not necessarily the best batsmen at their number in the batting order.


  1. Virender Sehwag (India)


    The man has become one of the most destructive forces in test cricket. These days every team has not one but many plans to dismiss him, and not too many succeed in doing so, without first hemorrhaging runs. He scored 1422 runs in 14 test matches (25 innings) at an average of 61.82. The stats at this point are quite impressive, as is for any test player who scores more than a 1000 runs in a calendar year. However, the fact that he got those 1422 runs in 25 innings at a strike rate of 90.80 is what makes the statistics all the more stunning. The sheer destructive aura that he now exudes, defeats the faint of heart even before they bowl their first delivery. Add to that another stat that, out of those 25 test innings he managed to maintain a 100.00 strike rate or more 10 times, and only one of those 10 times was in a test innings versus Bangladesh tells you that, he has at least once, pummeled each of his test opponents (Bangladesh, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand). He is by many a yard the best test opening batsman for the year 2010

  2. Alistair Cook (England)

    This left handed batsman has finally had his breakthrough year, which the English selectors have been waiting for since his debut in 2006. The most English of the current crop of English players, Alistair Cook seems to have come off age in the Australian conditions and has been eating the Australian bowling attack for breakfast, lunch and tea. In the current ashes series in particular, he has completely lost his habit of wafting outside the off-stump early on his innings, which led to his many low scores in the earlier part of his career. He seems to have passed his bug to Gautam Gambhir who is being now dismissed (whenever he manages to play more than 1 test match in a row) in a very similar fashion to how Cook was being dismissed a year ago when Gambhir was being called 'the indian run machine' by Sehwag. The purist's always believed that Cook has the temperament to succeed at the test level and that he just needed minor technical adjustments but a lot more belief. After this ashes series, technical issues aside, I do not think belief will be a problem. This may be the first of many bumper years from a man who is seen by many as the natural successor to Andrew Strauss.

  3. Jonathon Trott (England)

    The number three spot was pretty hard to decide, the three main contenders were Jonathon Trott, Kumar Sangakarra and Hashim Amla. On pure averages, at 99.28 Kumar Sangakarra was miles ahead of Hashim Amla's 78.06 and Trott's 66.25, even though both those averages are indications of a monster run scoring year for the other two contenders as well. However, the problem with Sangakarra's average lies in the fact that all 9 innings were played in Sri Lanka and granted that 5 of those 9 innings were against India, it was still in Sri Lanka, where batsmen are just not tested, unless they are (i) not Sri-Lankan; and (ii) facing Murali.

    Hashim Amla has had a fantastic year, one in which he scored 490 runs in India, being dismissed only once, however his complete loss of form in the West Indies for the duration of the three test match series and the fact that barring his 140 at Centurion in mid-December all his runs came on batsman friendly surfaces, does not allow him to overshadow the achievements of one who is much newer to the game than him, but already gives the dependable feeling of an established campaigner, one Jonathon Trott.

    Trott by any standards has had a fantastic year, his first full year in test cricket, he scored 1325 runs, at an average of 66.25 in 24 innings, with a high score of 226. He was a brief though vital component of the ashes success in 2009, however post the euphoria of one of the most brilliant debut centuries ever, he has continued the good work in 2010 and regained his top form for the Australians and his success against Australia in the current ashes series has cemented his place at No. 3 for England's foreseeable future.

  4. Sachin Tendulkar (India)

    Sachin Tendulkar has had an outstanding 2010 even by his own lofty standards. I would be amiss in referring to him in 2010 without mentioning the 200 not out against South Africa in an ODI, considering such an astonishing feat, if he hadn't achieved his 50th Test Century this year, the year 2010 would still have gone down has one of his most memorable years. However, the 1562 test runs he managed to accumulate in 23 innings at an average of 78.10 has made this year, his 21st full year playing test cricket, his finest year yet. He has never before in his 21 years of playing cricket, managed to accumulate over 1500 runs in a calendar year. To top it all, this has been a fantastically consistent year, where in his 23 test innings, 7 were centuries (2 double centuries), 5 were half centuries (one of them a 98 against Australia), only thrice in the entire 23 innings he batted was he dismissed on a single digit score and not a single duck all year long. What this basically means, not only did he pile on the runs this year, he did it all year long and against each of his opponents. None were spared, not the Australians at home and not the South Africans at home and away.

    To put into perspective as to why 2010 has to be ranked as Sachin's best year in test cricket, you would have to look at his previous stats, which are at first glance tough to top. His best year prior to this one was in 2002 where he scored 1392 runs at an average of 55.68 scoring 4 centuries and 5 half centuries in 26 test innings. The only year which can arguably top his 2010 performances was in 2004 when he scored 915 runs at an average of 91.50 scoring 3 centuries and 2 half centuries in only 15 test innings.

    The only other serious contender for this spot was Jacques Kallis, who scored 1198 runs at an average of 79.86 scoring 6 centuries and 2 half centuries, however, Sachin's consistency and complete domination of the bowling attacks, with riskless cricket, was beyond compare this year. Which is why, even though Kallis may have had his best year in test cricket, he would, the way Sachin has been playing, lose out as the best 2 down batsman in the year 2010.

  5. VVS Laxman (India)

    There were only two other batsmen I had considered for this spot before I decided on Laxman and they were Mike Hussey and AB de Villiers. Hussey had an extremely good start to the year where he scored a 134 not out against Pakistan, in a second innings when Australia were dismissed for 127 in their first innings. Aided by the 134 not out and an inspired spell of bowling from Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz as well as an implosion from the Pakistani batting line up, Australia managed to come away victorious from the game. However, everything went south from here on in and Mike Hussey did not score another test century till the first Ashes test over 10 months later. So even though Mike Hussey scored 967 runs at an average of 50.89 he could not make the cut as the best number three batsman. Neither could AB de Villiers, even though a snapshot of his performance this year can been seen from the fact that he scored 996 runs at an average of 76.61 with 3 centuries (including a mammoth 278 not out against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi), but could not be as much of an impact player as either Michael Hussey or our very own VVS Laxman.

    VVS Laxman, is indeed a very special batsman, anyone who has ever seen him bat would say the same. Laxman has also had a very very special year, where he has amassed 939 runs, at an average of 67.07, scoring 2 centuries and 7 half centuries. However it is not just the number of runs that makes this year special for this batsman, it is the circumstances under which 70% of his runs were scored. If ever any batsman can be said to have had an impact year, this is one of those years for Laxman. His 103 not out at the P Sara Oval in Colombo guided India home in a 257 run chase on a day 5 pitch, in Sri Lanka where the home side are notoriously difficult to defeat, with a bad back and a troublesome Ajantha Mendis who he had fallen prey to consistently in the previous series. His 73 not out in 79 deliveries at the PCA Stadium in Mohali guiding India home with one wicket to spare, battling back spasms and a resurgent Australian unit, is going to be the stuff of legends, spoken off immediately after speaking off his second innings 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens following on. Finally his 96 in Durban against an incisive and fast paced bowling attack consisting of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, where the rest of the batsmen in both innings seemed completely at sea, will go down as one of the finest exhibitions of batting against good pace bowling seen over the past few years. A year such as this goes down easily as a memorable and special one.

  6. Ian Bell (England)

    This position was easily the toughest to decide. There was not one player who consistently played at this position and claimed it as his own, as Laxman did till 2008, when Saurav was still in the team. Suresh Raina had a wonderful start to his test career in Colombo where he flayed the Sri Lankan attack on a placid SSC pitch and thereby notching up a century and a half century on debut. However, after a well-made 86 against Australia at Mohali, Suresh Raina has faded away in his performances and has found to be wanting once again, against quality short pitched bowling and had currently been dropped in favour of Cheteshwar Pujara. Marcus North maintained his position in the Australian batting line-up at number 6 and had an average year where he scored two centuries, however he has been unbearably inconsistent and has since been dropped in favour of Steven Smith.

    The choice was made in favour of Ian Bell on the basis of the fact that a team would want its number 6 batsman, to be an impact player, someone who can bat for long periods with the top order or quicken up the pace when batting with the tail enders. Ian Bell, a former top order batsman, has all these qualities. His position has been consistently between 5 and 6 during the year 2010, where he has scored 786 test runs in 14 innings at an average of 65.50. His impact has been felt throughout the current Ashes series where he has consistently counter attacked the Australian bowlers and managed to throw them of their game. He has batted well in trying circumstances and deserves to be called the best number 6 batsman in 2010.

  7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India)

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a had a fantastic start as the Indian test captain, his batting on the other hand as per me, has taken a hit in the past one year in all forms of the game. His captaincy, though now copping a little criticism for being too defensive with respect to field placings, has been getting the job done and he seems to be able to lift the team when required while still staying in control of the situation. As a wicketkeeper he effected 48 dismissals with 41 catches and 7 stumpings, he has seldom made too many glaring mistakes behind the wicket and a well-known saying in test cricket is that, "if you're not noticing the wicket-keeper, he's doing a good job" rings true for Dhoni's glove work. Matt Prior gave Dhoni good competition with more dismissals and a similar batting average, but where Dhoni scores over Matt Prior is that he seems to be a little more consistent than prior behind the stumps, as Prior is vulnerable to some shocking drops and misses especially when it comes to stumpings. With the bat as well, Dhoni seems a little less prone to single digit scores as Prior is and therefore, beats Matt Prior to the slot of Wicket-Keeper Batsman at No. 7.

  8. Graeme Swann (England)

    Graeme Swann walks into the best team for 2010, because on the basis of current form he is by leaps and bounds the best spinner in the world. Swann has an inherent advantage of not taking the game and life too seriously. As is displayed from the Swanny's Ashes Diary, he is a complete prankster with no regard for anyone's sensitivities including his own. His confidence that he will succeed at anything he does, as long as he does it his way, is refreshing and the exact burst of life that this English team needed. His record in 2010 speaks for itself; he was the highest wicket taker in 2010 taking 64 wickets at an average of 25.96 and a strike rate of 54.0. He took 5 wickets in an innings 6 times and 10 wickets in a match once. The next closest spinner to him was Harbhajan Singh of India, who took 43 wickets at 40.69 and a strike rate of 80.3. Such a large difference in the two spinners can be attributed to one simple character trait and that is aggression. Graeme Swann is an aggressive spinner, and not aggressive in the manner of snarling at the batsmen or mouthing off for no apparent reason, which Harbhajan is prone to do from time to time. Swann is aggressive in his outlook to the game, he loops the ball a lot more than the spinners around these days, this greater loop allows the ball the chance the grip, turn and bounce, which is more likely to pick up a wicket. He is forever attacking the batsmen and trying to get them out, which does not seem apparent from Harbhajan's bowling in 2010 (with maybe the exception of the Durban test). His never say die attitude and his successful wicket taking knack make him easily the best spin bowler in test cricket at the moment.

  9. Dale Steyn (South Africa)

    Dale Steyn is fast, he is unrelenting and is extremely aggressive. These are the required character traits of a wicket-taking strike bowler, and Dale Steyn does the job perfectly. It is quite an intimidating sight to see Dale Steyn charging in, off his long run-up, with a brand new red cricket ball in his hand and a lively pitch to support the back bending effort he is ready to put in. Neither is he a one dimensional bowler who can only bowl a certain kind of length with skill. His short ball, is as deadly as the one that dips in at pace, and it is usually the short ball which puts the fear of the front foot in the batsmen, which allows the full length in-dipper to do the job of getting the LBW or bowled. He is a seasoned operator who spearheads the South African bowling attack and with Morne Morkel forms one of the most intimidating opening bowling line-ups in world cricket today. His record in 2010 is exemplary; he took 60 wickets (with a best of 7/51 against India at Nagpur) at an average of 21.41 and a strike rate of 39. With his success in India at the start of the year, he displayed that he can be deadly on non-responsive pitches as well.

  10. Zaheer Khan (India)

    Zaheer has easily had the best year off his career, it may not be in terms of number of wickets, but considering the fact that he has been plagued with injuries which have made him miss many a match, he has maintained his form without looking rusty even after a lay-off due to injury. Zaheer hasn't played an injury free year since 2003, so as fans we should stop expecting him to do so. It is a well-known fact, that since his coming of age tour in 2007 to England, Zaheer has been a different bowler. He now gets in the face of batsmen, and not unnecessarily or after getting hit for a four like Sreesanth does from time to time, he gets in their face after he bounces them, or beats them with an away swinger. He gets in their face to let them know that life is not going to easy for the next 4-5 overs while he bowls, and he more often than not gets his man. In 2010 Zaheer took 47 wickets from 17 innings at an astonishing average of 21.97 which is second only to Dale Steyn. He is one of the few bowlers in the world who has mastered the SG, Kookaburra and the Duke ball. He has proven time and time again that you don't need pace alone to be a good fast bowler. What you need is a plan, the skill to execute the plan, and most importantly the heart to keep trying if the plan does not succeed at first, and heart Zaheer has displayed in ample amounts while toiling away on unresponsive Indian pitches.

  11. James Anderson (England)

    James Anderson took lots of wickets this year, and he took them cheaply and at important junctures. He has emerged as the English attack leader and has proven a further point by getting wickets down in Australia, where people felt that on the basis of his 2007 ashes performance he did not possess the skill to swing the Kookaburra ball. Well he proved them wrong and did so in emphatic style. He has been consistent all year round, without a single below par series. He took 57 wickets at an average of 22.96 and a strike rate of 48.7. He has taken wickets in heaps against both the South Africans and Australians and was near unplayable when he bowled against the Pakistani's. His ability to pull out a special delivery when needed, puts him ahead of the others and has finally become a world class bowler, who will go down, I am sure, as one of England's modern day great fast bowlers.


So 2010 was a memorable year in test cricket. It was a year where we said goodbye to one of the most loved personalities of the game, Muttiah Muralitharan. Muttiah had decided to retire after the first test of the home series against India in July, he was on 792 wickets. He produced a memorable swan song, where he bowled Sri Lanka to victory and picked up his required eight wickets and retired at exactly 800 wickets against his name. He was a bowler with exemplary skill and a fierce competitive nature. Murali loved bowling, you could tell from his delivery stride, the eyes wide upon release of the ball, in complete concentration. He was a bowler par excellence, some may so he was not better than Shane Warne, but who cares, he was Murali and everyone loved him, well maybe not Darrel Hair. He was the last great spinner to retire and with the exit of Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and now Murali, three spin bowlers who I have grown up watching and at different times, have attempted to copy their bowling actions (attempting to copy Murali's action resulted in disaster where a neighbors window was sacrificed and my friends didn't let me bowl for a week and I had to keep instead), there seems to be a lacunae in the quality of spin bowling in test cricket presently. Spin is an essential aspect of test cricket, which in my opinion seems to be diminishing. Whether it is limited overs cricket which is killing spin as a weapon of choice or other factors, your guess is as good as mine.


Another aspect which has come to light over the past one year is that, with the decline of the Australian Cricket team, there seems to have been a certain restoration of parity in the world of test cricket. Where earlier the difference between the best team and the second best team was miles and sometimes contests became boring and one-sided, there are currently 4 teams which on their best day could beat any of the other three teams. Between Australia, England, South Africa and India, we have a healthy four horse race, where predicting a winner amongst the four could be fraught with peril. Some may say the quality of cricket has gone down from the 80's and 90's. I tend to agree, but it does make for better viewing. Further, it is inevitable that if these teams continue competing against each other at their best, the quality is bound to rise as each team is going to attempt to find new ways of getting the edge over the other, as there is little to separate the two. These are all good signs for the game of test cricket and as a consequence of close competitive test cricket I feel that the game per se will be healthier over the coming few years.