It’s been a fascinating year of Test Cricket—a format that has been pronounced dead time and again in this wham-bam world of aggressive T20 cricket. But nothing could be further from the truth.
For starters, no ONE team dominated this format in 2014. The results have been interesting, and many will be surprised when they see who the team of the year actually is:
Not bad for a team that was lying in the doldrums at the beginning of the season. Brendon McCullum took over captaincy, became the only Kiwi to score a triple century, scored two more doubles, and pulled his team to perhaps their best performance in a decade. New Zealand defeated India at home 1-0, won in the West Indies 2-1, and drew with the mighty Pakistan in UAE 1-1, an unprecedented achievement considering Australia lost 2-0 to Pakistan only the previous week. New Zealand ended the year without losing a series. A great comeback and rise for a side desperately looking for the final push.
Again, a new dynamic captain—Angelo Mathews, taking his side to one of their better years in Tests. They dominated Pakistan in the sub-continent, no mean feat by any standards. They drew in the UAE 1-1, and blanked them 2-0 at Home in Sri Lanka. They did lose a home series 1-0 to the mighty South Africans though, but they played good hard competitive cricket against a team that easily has the best away record in decades. Somewhere in between, the Lankans annihilated Bangladesh again. Sangakkara, nearing retirement, broke the world record for the highest number of calendar runs (tests+odis) ever, while Mathews finished with a Bradmanisque average in both formats too.
They played at ‘home’ quite a bit, and struggled to close out every series except the one against a clueless Aussie team. They blanked them with senior stalwarts like Younis and Misbah breaking all sorts of records, before being sobered down by the Kiwis 1-1. All in all, it was a decent year for a team with a good leader.
They began by finishing off England at home, winning the last of 5 Ashes tests. They then went on to win in South Africa 2-1, ending Graeme Smith’s career and taking over the no. 1 ranking. Just when it seemed nothing could go wrong, they were destroyed by Pakistan in the UAE, much like England was destroyed a few years ago after taking over the no. 1 ranking. They still struggle much more than most teams in the subcontinent after losing 4-0 to India last year.
A stellar year again, except the blip against Australia and a major change in leadership. Amla is a good test leader, taking his team to a 1-0 tough win in Sri Lanka. They are currently destroying West Indies in the first test at home. They look good to end the year as no. 1 again, and deservedly so. However, they will need to pull up their socks against chief rivals Australia. They do have the best test batsmen (AB, Amla) and bowlers (Steyn, Philander) in the world.
A miserable year, as expected, considering they played abroad ONLY. They begun by losing 1-0 to the Kiwis, a series in which Zaheer Khan still existed. They then shockingly won the first test at Lords—arguably their finest moment of 2014, before losing 3 consecutive tests in shameful fashion. They lost to a bad English team 3-1 in England again, and are currently in the process of playing a competitive series against a young Australian side, but well on their way to losing it. India may be favorites to defend their World Cup crown in ODIs, but their test side languishes at no. 6 in the rankings.
They did manage to win a test against New Zealand at the Port Of Spain, but lost the series 2-1, after which they defeated Bangladesh 2-0 at home in an easy series. They are currently being thrashed senseless by the South Africans in South Africa, following on in the first test.
This side never improves. They did defeat Zimbabwe 3-0 at home, but were pulverized by West Indies and Sri Lanka at home. Wake me up when they become a passable side. It’s time Test Cricket began a tier system to relegate teams like West Indies and Bangladesh, to make them earn their place amongst the elite again. However, there isn’t enough competition from below, and there is too much of a gap between them and the others on top.