2018 in review: From 'sandpapergate' to De Villiers' shock retirement

Ashish Peter 29/12/2018
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The ball-tampering saga cast a dark shadow over 2018.

It has been a 2018 filled with highs and lows as another eventful year in the world of cricket draws to a close.

There has been no shortage of standout performances or controversies. As the New Year approaches, we take a look at the best and worst in the world of cricket in 2018.

HIGHS

AFGHANISTAN AND IRELAND MAKE TEST BOWS

It was a year to savour for two former Associates in Afghanistan and Ireland as they made their Test bows after being awarded Full Membership status by the ICC.

Afghanistan’s tryst with red-ball cricket got underway with a one-off Test against No1 ranked India at Bengaluru. It was a painful introduction to Test cricket for the Afghans as they fell to an innings defeat but the experience should hold them in good stead heading into 2019.

On the other hand, Ireland gave Pakistan an almighty scare in their first-ever Test at Malahide, Dublin before falling to a narrow five-wicket defeat.

The Irish gave Pakistan a a proper scare in Dublin.

The Irish gave Pakistan a a proper scare in Dublin.

LOWS

AUSTRALIA’S ‘SANDPAPERGATE’ CONTROVERSY

There are no prizes for guessing this one with Australia’s ‘Sandpapergate’ moment during the tour of South Africa taking the cake. It has been the saga which has dominated most of 2018 as Australian cricket hit unprecedented lows.

Skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were served with one-year bans from international and domestic cricket while protagonist Cameron Bancroft was slapped with a nine-month ban.

The ugly episode also led to the end of tenures of head coach Darren Lehmann and a host of Cricket Australia’s top brass as Australian cricket was forced to introspect. The ball-tampering episode still casts a big shadow over the national team who are now attempting to overhaul the cricketing culture under new coach Justin Langer and skipper Tim Paine.

The press-conference that changed it all.

The press-conference that changed it all.

SURPRISE OF THE YEAR

AB DE VILLIERS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

2018 saw some greats of the game hang up their boots in the form of England opener Alastair Cook and Sri Lanka spinner Rangana Herath. However, it was the retirement of AB de Villiers that surprised the cricket world with the Proteas batsman citing the pressure of an ever-increasing workload as the reason for his decision.

What makes De Villiers’ retirement a bitter pill to swallow for the South Africans is the fact that the batsman was still at the top of his game in all formats. With the Proteas still searching for a maiden World Cup title, the 34-year-old’s international retirement came at the worst possible time for his country with the global showpiece set to take place in England in 2019.

A retirement that sent shockwaves through the world of cricket.

A retirement that sent shock waves through the world of cricket.

LIMITED-OVERS BATSMAN OF THE YEAR

ROHIT SHARMA

While Virat Kohli once again finished as the top-scorer in the ODI format with over 1,200 runs and six tons while averaging a staggering 133, it is his deputy Rohit Sharma who takes this honour after a stupendous 2018.

The India opener is the second highest run-getter in the calendar year in the one-day format with 1,030 runs and five centuries along with an average of over 73. He pips Kohli to this honour due to his equally stellar performances in T20I cricket where he was once again the second highest run-getter with almost 600 runs in 18 innings.

Rohit registered two more T20 tons to his name, taking his overall tally to four in the format which is staggering.

Rohit Sharma hit new heights in white-ball cricket.

Rohit Sharma hit new heights in white-ball cricket.

LIMITED-OVERS BOWLER OF THE YEAR

RASHID KHAN

The Afghanistan leg-spin sensation had a prolific 2018 in both the ODI and T20 formats as he continued his meteoric rise in international cricket.

Rashid was the highest wicket-taker in the ODI format with 45 scalps in 20 matches at an average of less than 15 and an economy-rate of less than four runs an over. His T20 record wasn’t too shabby either with 22 wickets in eight matches at an average less than nine and an economy-rate of 6.36.

No surprises then that he his now ranked No1 and No2 in the ICC bowler’s rankings in the T20 and ODI formats respectively.

Rashid continues to get better and better.

Rashid continues to get better and better.

TEST BATSMAN OF THE YEAR

VIRAT KOHLI

The India skipper has enjoyed a sensational year in both the ODI and Test formats but it has been his performances in the latter which have been the biggest highlight of Kohli’s year.

The top-scorer in the format in 2018 by some distance with 1,322 runs from 24 innings at an average of over 55, Kohli has taken Test cricket by storm. The 29-year-old reached the highest Test rating points ever achieved by an Indian batsman while scoring five tons in the calendar year.

Four of those tons have come in testing overseas conditions of South Africa, England and Australia which makes Kohli’s achievements all the more remarkable.

A momentous year in Test cricket for King Kohli.

A momentous year in Test cricket for King Kohli.

TEST BOWLER OF THE YEAR

MOHAMMAD ABBAS AND KAGISO RABADA

There are several contenders for this honour including India’s Jasprit Bumrah and Australia’s Pat Cummins but it is Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas and South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada who stood head and shoulders above the others.

Having made his international bow in only 2017, Abbas has played just seven Tests this year but managed to bag 38 wickets with a sensational average of 13.76. The 29-year-old helped Pakistan to a famous win over England at Lord’s with an eight-wicket haul and was in unstoppable form in the ‘home’ series against Australia in the UAE where he bagged 17 wickets in just two matches.

Rabada, meanwhile, became the youngest pacer to attain the top ICC bowler’s ranking in a year where he finished as the highest wicket-taker with 52 scalps in 10 Tests.

Just no separating these two bowlers in 2018.

Just no separating these two bowlers in 2018.

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Kusal Mendis itching for more consistency after bringing up 1000 Test runs in 2018

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Kusal Mendis (r) has had a remarkable 2018.

It wasn’t Sri Lanka’s day in the second Test against New Zealand at Christchurch with the visitors facing the prospect of a crushing defeat.

The islanders were reduced to 231-6 in their chase of a mammoth 660 with one day of play still remaining in the Test. Despite the unenviable position Sri Lanka now find themselves in heading into Sunday, there was something to smile about for the tourists with young batsman Kusal Mendis bringing up 1,000 Test runs in 2018.

The 23-year-old became only the second batsman after India skipper and No1 ranked Virat Kohli to touch four figures in the calendar year and the youngest since 2005 to attain the feat.

The right-hander continued his good form in the series with a well-crafted 67 in Sri Lanka’s second innings before he was dismissed by Neil Wagner.

The young batsman was long heralded as the next big batting hope to emerge from Sri Lanka when he made his Test debut against the West Indies as a 20-year-old. Mendis seemed intent on fulling that promise with a match-winning 176 against Australia at Pallekelle but then seemed to lose his way with a string of poor displays.

Dropped from the Test outfit at one stage, Mendis had truly blossomed into an excellent red-ball batsman in 2018 with three tons to his name. The first was a 196 against Bangladesh at Chittagong while the second came in the West Indies in Trinidad.

The youngster has registered three tons in 2018 alone.

The youngster has registered three tons in 2018 alone.

The last of his three 2018 centuries came in the opening Test against New Zealand where he remained unbeaten on 141 to help pull off a remarkable draw for the visitors.

Now, the Sri Lanka youngster is hoping to turn his 2018 showing as a benchmark for the rest of his career.

“I’m really happy, and I did have that target (1,000 runs) in mind,” Mendis was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

“In the first few matches of the year I didn’t have that in my head, but later on, after I’d played a few games and scored a few runs, then I became pretty intent on getting to 1000 runs. I’m really glad I was able to do it at 23, and I had challenged myself to get there in this last game,” he added.

Mendis has also credited Sri Lanka batting coach Thilan Samaraweera for helping him gain confidence to perform overseas.

“Before I came to New Zealand I had 200 more runs to get, and I talked to the batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, and was telling him I still had 200 to get in New Zealand. He said there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it – get there somehow. He gave me confidence, and I got a lot of help from everyone on how I can play on the tracks here. I’m going to try and get there every year,” he explained.

Mendis’ 1,023 Test runs in 2018 have come in 23 innings at an average of 46.50.

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Team India reportedly furious with Australian commentator's 'Canteen XI' comments

Sudhir Gupta 29/12/2018
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India Test debutant Mayank Agarwal.

The Indian cricket team have taken note of commentator Kerry O’Keefe’s distasteful comments made during the ongoing Boxing Day Test against Australia at Melbourne.

On day one of the Test, the former Australian leg-spinner had drawn the ire of Indian cricket fans by belittling the domestic cricket achievements of debutant Mayank Agarwal.

Commentating for Fox Sports, the Aussie had insensitively remarked that Agarwal’s Ranji Trophy triple ton had come against a ‘Jalandhar Railways Canteen XI’ on air. Agarwal would go on to register a vital 76-run knock in his maiden international innings, forcing the commentator to later issue an apology.

India bowling coach Bharat Arun has revealed that the team management had been made aware of O’Keefe’s disparaging comments but stated that they had no intention of filing an official complaint.

Addressing the media following the completion of the fourth day’s play in the Boxing Day Test, Arun said: “Yes, it does hurt you but when people make those remarks, there is nothing you can do about it.”

“It’s beyond your control. If you can channelise that hurt towards doing better on the field that answers all the questions,” he added.

While no official complaint will be made, a report by ESPNcricinfo states that several players in the Indian squad are said to be furious at O’Keefe’s jibe.

While O’Keefe did apologise for his comments on Agarwal, the Australian commentator was at it again on day four. Ridiculing the pronunciation of the names of Indian players, O’Keefe said, “Why would you call your kid Cheteshwar Jadeja?”

The Indian team management are yet to take note of the commentator’s latest controversial comments and it remains to be seen if they intend to escalate the matter.

The visitors are currently two wickets away from taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series ahead of the final day’s play in the Melbourne Test.

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