It is that time of the year when most of us take a look back at the time that went by and reminisce about the moments that made the year.
Cricket writers are no different. We like to relive the past and talk about those glorious moments in the sport that will stay etched in our minds for posterity.
Shane Watson’s blood-soaked knee as he waged a lone battle in the IPL finals, MS Dhoni’s teary walk back after that astonishing run out in the World cup semi-finals, that surreal last hour in the World cup finals, the newfound love for Steve Smith, that Ben Stokes miracle at Headingley and last but not least, the jaw-dropping display of fast bowling by the Indian pace battery.
Watto’s blood-soaked knees
Mumbai versus Chennai has been the ‘El Clasico’ of the Indian Premier League. The titans clashed once again in the finals and what a contest it turned out to be. Needing 150 to win the title, CSK’s run chase was single-handedly led by Shane Watson.
Watto got the team within touching distance of the coveted trophy, only to be denied by a runout. The other veteran, Lasith Malinga, redeemed himself in the last over and stopped the Lions just a run short.
The image of Shane Watson walking back to the pavilion with his trousers soaked in his blood was the picture of IPL 2019 for many of us.
India was one of the favourites to win the World Cup 2019. They played like champions and reached the semi-finals with a lone loss to England in the group stages. However, the Kiwis had a surprise for the Indians at Old Trafford.
Their opening bowlers ripped open the Indian top order with good quality swing bowling in favourable morning conditions. It was left to Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to repair the damage. They almost did the unimaginable, until another equally incredible effort by Martin Guptill ran Dhoni out.
The image of a teary-eyed Dhoni, usually impassive, continues to haunt many Indian team supporters.
There are some defeats which are heart-wrenching, and you can’t watch even the highlights for decades that follow. The World Cup 2019 semi-final loss is one such loss for Indian supporters.
Bedlam at Lord’s
Cricket is a somewhat complicated sport with a spaghetti of rules. The tie-breaking boundaries count was the latest one that cricket administrators snuck into that fat book. July 14th 2019, one of the greatest sporting days ever, saw an eight-time champion fail to convert his championship points.
The same day saw a whole host of bizarre events shaping the English win at Lord’s. Ben Stokes’s bat of god, Kane Williamson’s calm demeanour after the defeat, Ian Smith’s exuberance in the commentary box, last ball run out, the finals had it all.
Not even the 1975 finals when Dennis Lillee and Thommo tried to run 17 runs during the crowd invasion will come close to the chaos that we witnessed at the Lord’s on that unbelievable sporting day.
Steve Smith dancing leaves outside the off-stump
Only a year and a bit back, Steve Smith had to leave South Africa teary-eyed and ashamed after his teammates were caught tampering with the ball. The Australian cricket board banned him for a year.
Smith returned to international cricket during the World Cup and was duly booed by the partisan English crowd.
During the tournament, Smith did not look to be at his best, despite top-scoring in the second semi-finals. So, when Australia started their Ashes campaign, soon after the World Cup, not a lot was expected from Smith.
But, what Smith produced was one master class after the other. Be it seaming or swinging or flat batting conditions, and Steven Smith couldn’t be out.
If Andy Narell and Relator had watched Smith bat, they would have rewritten the Calypso, ‘We couldn’t out Smith at all, not at all’. Added to that was the love for everything Smithy. Those quirky and fidgety mannerisms were admired by one and all, as though they were watching their little kid taking his first steps.
Miracle at Headingley
In 2019, Ben Stokes was Forrest Gump. Wherever history was made, Stokes was there. If that World Cup final was not enough, Ben Stokes single-handedly won the Headingley Test for England. These hallowed grounds in Leeds have witnessed Ian Botham’s heroics in the early 1980s.
That a man tipped by many as Botham re-incarnate would perform another miraculous act to win against the same old rival was not on anybody’s mind. A team that folded for just 67 runs in the first innings went on to score 362 runs in the final innings to win the Test match.
Ben Stokes swept, reverse swept, pulled and drove with gay abandon while Jack Leach blocked, stole that all-important single and gained a lifetime of free glasses for himself.
Indian pace battery
When I typed ‘Indian pace battery’ in Google search, Google politely suggested ‘West Indian pace battery’ as one of the two choices in the auto-suggest. Even Google couldn’t think that time has come to drop the word ‘West’ from that sentence. Yes, world, get used to it now. India has that pace battery today.
Sunil Gavaskar said on air that Mohammed Shami reminded him of Malcolm Marshall and that he ran in like a leopard running to catch its prey. Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav bowled with pace, venom and guile to make India the best Test team of 2019. They won India the first-ever Test series in Australia.
They made the South Africans jump and rush in home conditions. They reduced the first pink-ball Test in India to a two and a bit days affair. They have made India the leaders on the World Test Championship table, way ahead of the rest. To think that a Navdeep Saini is waiting in the wings is a great way to say goodbye to 2019.