A shot in the arm for Windies Cricket

Chris Gayle does a gangnam dance, even as the West Indies team celebrates World T20 triumph in Sri Lanka.-AP

It was a year to remember for West Indies and South Africa. The Caribbeans, after a long gap, won a major championship, the World T20 title, and the South Africans reigned supreme in Test cricket. By K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

The dregs of 2012 are slowly settling down, leaving us with stirring memories and a lump in our throats. And as 2013 eases in, the overwhelming theme of the last 12 cricketing months would be ‘change’ as teams grappled with hierarchy and a few legends bowed out.

That night in Colombo

“We will need a lot of bartenders in the Caribbean tonight,” quipped Darren Samy, with the ICC World Twenty20 trophy placed on the nearby table. Even cynical journalists cutting across nationalities were moved, bred as they were on a childhood that was spent gaping at the exploits of a stunning West Indies team.

High on players, who were burnished in global Twenty20 leagues, the West Indies was considered as the dark-horse of the tournament. The squad lived up to that billing when on October 7, Sammy’s men defeated Sri Lanka by 36 runs in the final.

Chris Gayle (222 runs) powered the Caribbean resurgence but in the summit-clash, the team also proved that it can triumph despite the marauder’s failure in the key clash. Like Marlon Samuels (78 in the final), the West Indies found key men in tense situations and relished a special win.

The peak

South Africa came to Australia with the burning desire to humble Michael Clarke’s men. After a rain-marred drawn game at Brisbane, the South Africans just about managed to save the match at Adelaide. Finally, it humbled its host at Perth. With an enviable batting ensemble that features Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, skipper Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers and a bowling-ammunition that has Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as its lead cannons, the Proteas have set exacting standards.

England's moment of glory, after beating India in Test series.-K.R. DEEPAK

England, meanwhile lost at home against South Africa, and found mixed returns in its bid to excel in Asia. Saeed Ajmal weaved a web in the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan whipped England 3-0 in the Tests.

England then held Sri Lanka to a 1-1 draw in the matches at the Emerald Isle and that progress bore full fruition in India.

Michael Clarke... a phenomenal run with the bat against South Africa.-AP

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar out-spun India and Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell batted infinitely better than Virender Sehwag and company, who also looked lost in tackling James Anderson and England won the series 2-1.

Bring on the tissues

Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Mark Boucher and Andrew Strauss said their good-byes with grace and left gaping voids within their respective reams — Australia, India, South Africa and England.

Ricky Ponting, with his daughters Emmy (on the lap) and Matisse, doing a lap of honour in Hobart on December 13, 2012. Fans will certainly miss Punter in the Test arena.-AP

The finish-line however had no fairy-tale flourish. Ponting mustered just 32 in three Tests against South Africa; Dravid and Laxman, bided their time after a disastrous Australian tour earlier this year and then announced their farewells; a freak eye injury forced Boucher to leave and Strauss quit after leading his team to a 0-2 Test series loss against South Africa.

Return of the rebels

Imagine a cricket world without Gayle and Pietersen! That terrible spectacle — long for Gayle and relatively brief for Pietersen — did plague these two ‘x-factor’ cricketers.

Thankfully, the differences between Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board was sorted and he celebrated his return to the international fold, after a 19-month gap, with a 150 that paved the way for the West Indies’ nine-wicket victory over New Zealand at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. More was to follow when he made the ICC World Twenty20 his own in Sri Lanka.

Pietersen meanwhile learnt to rein in his twitchy texting fingers (allegedly he had sent critical messages about his England mates to the South Africans) and angst-updates on Twitter while the England and Wales Cricket Board gradually found a way to handle its key player, who has the maximum flair. Before his enforced exile, he proved his worth with a 151 at Colombo and a 149 at Leeds against South Africa.

Pakistan team poses with Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh.-AP

Once he came back, Pietersen again reiterated his sublime skills as his pulsating ton set up England’s triumph in the Mumbai Test and the rest is history.

Captaincy – a double-edged sword

M.S. Dhoni, Ross Taylor and Mahela Jayawardene found low-key returns and the reactions were contrasting. The Indian captain has just lost a home series against England and the knives are out; Taylor was unceremoniously dumped by the New Zealand cricket authorities and Jayawardene, who stepped in after Tillakaratne Dilshan opted out of captaincy, has said that the current set of matches in Australia is his last as the Sri Lankan skipper.

Thankfully it was not just gloom and doom in the ‘skipper diaries’ as England’s Cook, who with his sheer of weight of runs (562) and an adroit squad, humbled India. Smith meanwhile led the Proteas to series victories in England and in Australia and the South Africans finished as the number one in Tests. And Australia’s Clarke, capped a wonderful year with 576 runs at home against Smith’s men though the series was lost 0-1.

Tendulkar’s Everest

Among the rest, a priceless statistical diamond glitters bright as Sachin Tendulkar notched his 100th international hundred — a 114 against Bangladesh at Dhaka on March 16 in the Asia Cup. However in a gut-wrenching year for the maestro, even that ton was lost in the despair that surrounded India’s shocking loss against Bangladesh.

Incidentally Pakistan won the Asia Cup, which proved to be the biggest tournament in ODIs over the last year, while Bangladesh showed enough sparks to hint at a slow evolution in limited overs cricket.