With the business end of the year still to go, 2013 has already seen quite a bit of international cricket. The Ashes are on, the first of two consecutive series- while India is yet to tour South Africa at the end of the year.
There have been massive highs and depressing lows, and to sum it up, here is a compilation of titles:
Batting Hero of 2013:
Kumara Sangakkara (SL)
In his 36th year of existence, much like Brian Lara, Sangakkara is enjoying an extended purple patch that has seen him compile runs in all forms of the game. He has already lived through an illustrious career- the best and worst Sri Lankan squads in a decade, involving a lot of Final match heartbreaks- but Sangakkara hasn’t had enough yet. Under the captaincy of Angelo Mathews, he has blossomed into their most reliable player this year- 5 hundreds already- with 3 of them coming in just the 2 test matches he has played all year. He has aggregated 883 ODI runs at an average of over 70, and 441 runs in 2 tests. His 169 against South Africa will go down as one of the finest one-day innings of all time, an almighty assault that bore graceful violence and beauty rarely associated with such large scores.
Comeback of the Decade:
Shikhar Dhawan (IND)
Close behind him, it’s been Shikhar Dhawan driving a new-look young Indian team to multiple titles with his disdainful cuts and gorgeous drives. His average and statistics are irrelevant, and his 248 against South Africa A doesn’t even make the list- because his influence at the top of the order has rivaled Sangakkara’s importance. 2013 has been the year of the southpaws.
Alarm Bell Of 2013:
Ian Bell (ENG)
4 hundreds in 2013. The rise of Ian Bell has coincided with England’s rise in Test Cricket. His grace and technique has seen the return of classical batting return to the top of international cricket- and he has finally fulfilled the talent that he had suppressed for years of mediocrity. He has already had a tremendous Ashes series- 3 centuries in 4 matches- and has been in good ODI form too (England’s highest scorer in both forms).
Armageddon of 2013:
Ravindra Jadeja (IND)
The legend of Sir Jadeja is secure. It is not even a shock anymore that he is the number 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world right now, and his test series against Australia (24 wickets in 4 matches) dispelled all notions that bits-and-pieces cricketers can’t cut the mustard at the international level. He is the main reason behind India’s climb up the rankings in both forms. His 38 ODI wickets easily put him on top of the ‘most valuable player of 2013’ list.
Best Bowler of 2013:
James Anderson (ENG)
His average may be a little higher than the other two English bowlers topping the test chart- Broad and Swann- and his wickets may not be as many as Broad (thanks to Broad’s last test burst of 12 wickets), but Jimmy Anderson has demonstrated that, much like fine wine, his bowling has only gotten better with age. He has widely been hailed as the best swing bowler of his generation- even better than the destructive Steyn- and has led England to an Ashes series lead of 3-0 already. Not many are aware that he has also been England’s best bowler in ODIs this year- capturing 23 wickets in 10 games.
Villain of 2013:
The Decision Review system and umpires in the current Ashes series have combined to make a lethal cocktail that could single handedly destroy Test Cricket. Hot Spot has only added to the disaster, and the suits in the Council must be wondering if the BCCI aren’t just big bullies after all.
Scapegoats of 2013:
Shane Watson and David Warner (AUS)
The former is going through the worst slump of his career- and has been shuffled to positions 1,3,7 and 5 in the test order through the Ashes. His century at The Kia Oval, his first in test cricket in 45 innings, comes as a great relief after a year that has seen him being disciplined for not writing his homework. Redemption could be close.
The latter has been suspended after getting into a pub brawl with a self-righteous Joe Root, has taken the hard path, scored a century in South Africa, been absorbed back by a desperate Australian Ashes squad and almost redeemed himself in the fourth test before an Australian collapse undid his effort. Australia’s two openers may not have had the best season of their lives- going down 0-4 to India and 0-3 down in the Ashes in England. The Ashes Down Under could be their last chance.