In the final Talking Cricket podcast of 2016, host Barnaby Read is joined by Ajit Vijaykumar and Joy Chakravarty.
The Sport360 trio discuss the year that was in 2016, from the World T20 through Pakistan’s rise to number one Test team in the world and India’s eventual dominance.
As well as that, the team pick their players of the year and some personal highlights in 2016.
Focus then quickly turns to 2017, what the year may hold for cricket as a whole, the Champions Trophy and the Ashes at the end of the year.
You can listen to all this and more, in the podcast below.
Enjoy and a bug thank you from all the team for listening this year. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all at Talking Cricket.
It was a remarkable year in many ways. From the sensational World T20 final to the dominating display of the India Test team, there were numerous performances that thrilled fans, while some caused heartache for others.
The quality of cricket across formats was fairly high and we saw some intense games, which was in line with the current trend with most teams who like to play positive cricket and want to win at every juncture.
Here are my selections from what was a memorable 2016…
Do you agree?
PLAYER OF THE YEAR – RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN
The India off spinner was not only the most impactful bowler for his team, he was also the all-round performer of the year. The 30-year-old has become as important a member of the side as Virat Kohli as he is the main bowler, important part of the lower-order batting and a leader on the field. It was probably very easy for the ICC to select him as the Player and Test Cricketer of the Year.
BATSMAN OF THE YEAR – VIRAT KOHLI
The India Test captain continues to push the boundaries in all forms of the game. Be it his fitness, attitude or appetite for runs, Kohli is leading by example and the results are there for all to see. He now averages over 50 in all forms of the game and has scored nearly 20 per cent of his 13,000 plus international runs in this year alone. Simply superb.
Virat Kohli has scored a total of 3584 runs in all professional formats this calendar year. pic.twitter.com/1QHvXLhlE6— CricTracker (@Cricketracker) December 24, 2016
TEAM OF THE YEAR – INDIA
It was a fairly easy pick. Almost every other major team has had some remarkable success coupled with crushing lows. But India have been fairly consistent throughout. They reached the semi-final of the World T20 at home, remained unbeaten in Tests, retained their No1 ranking and did so while blooding in new players almost constantly. The sky is the limit for this young team.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR – CARLOS BRATHWAITE
Four balls is all it took for West Indies all-rounder Brathwaite to stun England and the cricketing world during the final of the World T20 in Kolkata. England were almost home, with the Windies needing 19 from the last over. The experienced Ben Stokes was expected to get the job done but Brathwaite had other ideas, clubbing four of the mightiest sixes seen at the biggest stage.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE YEAR – JONNY BAIRSTOW
The England wicketkeeper fell just 11 runs short of Michael Vaughan’s England record of most Test runs in a year (1481). There have been many great English batsmen over the years and for Jonny to come so close to the record, and in a year when the team toured Bangladesh and India, showed how huge a stride he has made in his career.
HEARTWARMING MOMENT OF THE YEAR – PAKISTAN REACHING TOP SPOT
Misbah ul Haq’s team had made consistency their mantra over the past few years, becoming almost unbeatable at home (UAE) and competitive away. Pakistan didn’t lose a series for more than two years, a run that ended in New Zealand. But their hard work didn’t go to waste, as they rose to the top of the Test rankings, albeit briefly. Finally, something genuinely good happened to Pakistan cricket.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR – MOHAMMAD AMIR
Once the left-arm pacer had served his sentence For his role in the spot fixing saga and was allowed to return to competitive cricket, it was only a matter of time before he made an international comeback. Amir played in all formats and bowled decently. He picked up 30 wickets from nine Tests (before the Boxing Day match), 12 wickets in nine ODIs and 11 scalps in 13 T20s. But more than the results, it was the way he eased into the team and took the role of the leader of the attack that was praiseworthy.
RECORD OF THE YEAR – ENGLAND SCORE 444-3
The highest score in ODIs had been set by Sri Lanka (443-9) in 2006 and that record stood for decade despite the advent of T20 cricket. It was only in August this year that the record was finally broken, with England opener Alex Hales cracking 171 to power his team to 444-3 against Pakistan. Let’s see how long this one stands. 500, anyone?
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR – AUSTRALIA
This was the year where Australian cricket plunged into a full-blown crisis. They were blanked 5-0 by the Proteas in an ODI series in October, the first such a fate in one-dayers, and they also lost five Tests in a row. It all reached tipping point in the Hobart Test against South Africa where the Aussies were shot out for 85 and lost the match by an innings last month. They axed as many as five players and started from scratch. Australia won two Tests after that but it will be some time before fans can forget the horrors of 2016.
CONTROVERSY OF THE YEAR – MINTGATE
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was caught on camera appearing to use saliva tainted by a mint to shine the ball during the second Test against Australia in Hobart last month. He was found guilty by the ICC but he contested the decision, which he lost after a hearing. All we can say is, tough luck. Many players apparently do it, just that Faf was caught.
Faf du Plessis loses appeal against ball-tampering verdicthttps://t.co/MGoQzWgOX8— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 22, 2016
WISHLIST FOR 2017 – GREATER BALANCE BETWEEN BAT AND BALL
Batting, especially in limited overs cricket, is getting out of hand. One-day matches are seeing huge totals and there are record chases in almost every series. It was, therefore, a big relief when the MCC announced plans to limit the size of modern bats to ensure mishits don’t go for a six. If possible, bowlers should be allowed to bowl as many bouncers an over as they want, just to even things out.
Ravi Ashwin is on top of the world at the moment. The India spinner has had a stupendous year, picking up 72 wickets in 12 Tests and scoring 612 runs at an average of 43.7, including two centuries. His form in T20 was equally good, with 23 wickets from 17 matches at an economy of 6.3. Suffice to say, Ashwin is at his peak.
Ashwin was also named the ICC Cricketer of the Year and also the Test Cricketer of the Year for 2015-16 on Thursday, which was icing on top of the cake.
The 30-year-old is an integral member of the Indian team, one of the finest spinners of his generation and an accomplished batsman as well. Some would argue he is as valuable as Virat Kohli in the Indian team. For Ashwin, being the MVP is a mantra and not just an end result.
“I think I am always the most important cricketer in the team and most important cricketer for myself. I want to be invaluable for any team that I am part of, be it a league game in Chennai, Ranji Trophy match for Tamil Nadu, IPL teams or for India. I take a lot of pride in my performance. So my contribution is my only focus and not what I bring to the game or who I was before I got into the game,” Ashwin told Sport360 during the launch of the East Sports Management Cricket Academy at the Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum in Dubai.
“No one asked me to take up this game. If I had failed, nobody would have taken care of my life. I decided to embark upon this career, took a chance and went all in at the poker table. I went after my dream, and here I am achieving what I want to do in life.”
It has been a phenomenal rise. Ashwin made his debut in 2010, got instant recognition for his clever variations and became an important member of the side.
However a couple of seasons down the road, Ashwin’s bowling started to become a bit unpredictable mainly due to his penchant for variations.
Ashwin then went back to the drawing board, dismantled his game and reworked it ground up, going back to a simpler method of success by repetition and subtle variations. The Ashwin we see now is a classic off-spinner who looks to beat batsmen in the air and off the pitch, getting top players out on the drive. However, the Tamil Nadu player believes the change he has made to his bowling style is just a natural process for him.
“I haven’t changed much, to be honest. The changes visible out on the field are a reflection of the complicated person you see in me. Because of who I am dictates those changes on the field. You won’t see many people around in the world, in any profession, who will be able to change or go all in to try and change something about themselves to be excellent. People settle for what they have in life and kind of stagnate. There are probably less than 1 per cent of people who want to take the chances that I do. I am proud of myself but I feel I haven’t changed that much, just matured a bit more,” he revealed.
He has had many memorable performances in the Tests this year, having scored two centuries, five fifties and snaring 10 wickets in a match on three occasions. However, the most satisfying performance, as a whole, for Ashwin is the Antigua Test against the West Indies in July, where he hit a century in the first innings and picked up seven wickets in the West Indies’ second innings.
“Antigua is one of the special ones as how it happened. I had got a hundred in the first innings. My dream was to score a hundred and pick up five wickets in a Test. I started off on a good note, batted at number six, scored a hundred. First innings I didn’t get wickets…
“What gives me a kick is people throw me down, criticise me and speculate about me. And when I come roaring back into the game and prove myself is what gives me a kick and that’s why it (Antigua match) was special.”
What has helped Ashwin express himself better as a cricket is Kohli the Test captain, who has utilised the spinner as the attacking option. While Ashwin said every member of the team, coaching staff and also his family members deserve credit for his success in 2016, Kohli’s captaincy did play its part.
“As a batsman, you don’t need a lot of help from anybody. You are on your own. You are given a number, you go out and bat and control most of your things. But as a bowler, it is very important you have the confidence and support of the captain on the field. As important it is to pick up those wickets and try and turn the game around, it’s also about the captain throwing you the ball and saying ‘come win the game for me’… or throwing the ball to me with a little bit of a doubt. It makes a huge difference to a bowler. Virat deserves a lot of credit for that,” Ashwin said.
However, the spinner didn’t want any inference to be drawn about the leadership of former Test skipper and current limited overs captain MS Dhoni. For the record, Ashwin bowled only two overs in the World T20 semi-final against the West Indies this year, which India lost while defending 193.
The recently concluded five-match series against England was another feather in the cap of Ashwin. He ended up with 28 wickets and 306 runs. Ashwin, however, was keen to point out England were a tough opponent and the 4-0 result doesn’t reflect how closely contested the series was.
“The scoreline may say 4-0 but they put in a lot of work in it. They put us under pressure on more than one occasion.
“I have a lot of respect for their players, they really played well but at the crucial moments in every match, we capitalised really well. That is also a message for our team saying how good we can be in the future. Personally I enjoyed the series. Now that it is over and we come up on the right side (result wise), it’s time to look forward and go into the next series with a positive mindset.”