Stars of 2009

A LOOK AT A FEW CRICKETERS WHO DREW ATTENTION IN 2009.

Andrew Strauss: The left-handed opener was pitchforked into the hot seat of captaincy after Kevin Pietersen resigned. He struck the right notes with three hundreds in the West Indies and yet watched his team lose the series 0-1.

However, he was not denied his moment of glory as his 161 at Lord's set the tone as England eventually defeated Australia 2-1 to regain the Ashes. Strauss was not overwhelmed by Ricky Ponting's men and with a cool head guided his team to victory.

Andrew Flintoff: The big-built all-rounder, who in a miniscule way quenched the thirst of the English public to see another Ian Botham, opted out of Test cricket as the Ashes gathered pace. A dodgy right knee hastened his walk away from the whites but being the limelight moth, he dished out a grandstand performance at Lord's in the second Test. His five for 92 in the second innings sealed Australia's fate and proved that when fit he was a force that could not be stopped.

Later in the final Test at The Oval, he ran out Ponting and flung his arms skywards. Flintoff will continue to play the shorter formats and his opting out of the England contract and turning a freelancer might lead to many more players doing the same as the Indian Premier League and other future tournaments threaten to shorten international careers.

Shane Watson:? The allrounder who caught the imagination as a star-performer during Rajasthan Royals' winning streak in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League, lost his lustre for a while due to injuries before he found his roar in the second half of 2009.

Watson's unbeaten hundreds in the semifinal and final of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament in South Africa, proved to be match-winning knocks.

Later when an almost second-string Australian team toured India, Watson appeared rusty initially before he found his form to win the Man of the Series award while Ponting's men surprised India with a 4-2 verdict in the ODI series. Watson may perhaps be the ideal substitute for Andrew Symonds, who lost his way due to disciplinary issues.

Tillakaratne Dilshan: Coming from a country that had batsmen of impeccable pedigree right from the days of Roy Dias through Aravinda de Silva to his contemporaries Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, Dilshan took his time to warm up to the rigours of international cricket.

However, when he finally secured his spot, he exploded with ferocity as he notched six Test tons in 2009 besides winning the Player of the Series award during the ICC World Twenty20 in England after scoring 317 runs.

Dilshan gives momentum to his team and helps the top-order cope with the absence of Sanath Jayasuriya in the Tests. He also adds his dash of cheeky shots to unhinge rival bowlers.

Younus Khan: The Pathan, who always had been ambivalent about leading the Pakistan team, perhaps found a deeper emotion within as he guided a team of fiercely proud but disparate individuals during the ICC World Twenty20 Cup in England.

The Pakistan team, with its lack of match practice and coping with an outcast status due to the spiralling terror strikes back home, yet managed to find inner strength and bucked the odds to win the trophy and help the nation crack a broad smile from Lahore to Karachi.

Younus scored useful runs in the beginning of the campaign, found the volatile Shahid Afridi striking some crucial blows and the team eventually pipped Sri Lanka in the summit clash to revive memories of Imran Khan holding aloft the World Cup in 1992. Younis subsequently retired from T20 and as the year ended, was missing from the Pakistan ranks but he had done enough to retain a permanent place among Pakistan's pantheon of legends.