2018 has been the year of India’s pace resurgence with Jasprit Bumrah’s sensational efforts in the Melbourne Test against Australia perfectly summarising the massive improvement the team’s fast-bowling battery has made over the year.
Bumrah’s career-best 6-33 in the first innings not only wrecked hosts Australia’s batting card, but also completed a record year for India’s pace arsenal. The 136 wickets shared between Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma in 2018 made them arguably the most complete and potent pace attacks in the world.
For a country not famed for producing quality fast-bowlers, the 2018 display of the pace trio is an achievement to savour.
The sight of Bumrah beating Australia’s batsmen through sheer pace in Melbourne was one to behold. What is even more impressive about Bumrah’s display is the fact that he is still in his debut year when it comes to Test cricket.
Having forged his reputation as a limited-overs bowler, the Ahmedabad-born pacer was introduced to Test cricket in India’s tour of South Africa and has gone from strength to strength.
His displays in South Africa, England and now Australia have more than confirmed his Test credentials with the 25-year-old picking up a total of 48 wickets in just nine matches at an average of 21.
While Bumrah has brought the X-factor in the Indian pace armoury, he has been complemented perfectly by Shami and Ishant who have been highly consistent.
Shami has matched Bumrah’s tally (47) although he has player 12 matches while Ishant has picked up 41 wickets in 11 games.
For long India has hoped for a bowling attack capable of picking up 20 wickets consistently across all conditions, especially away from home. Bumrah, Shami and Ishant have done just that with their overseas displays this year and that too in some style.
In fact, it has been India’s batting which let the team down in the tours of South Africa and England with only Virat Kohli making a consistent impact, along with Cheteshwar Pujara. There can be no complaints about India’s pacers who have matched – and maybe even bettered – their South African, English and Australian counterparts in 2018.
In the three Tests against Australia so far, India’s pace attack has outperformed Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Bumrah and Co have picked up 45 wickets while Australia’s fearsome trio have accounted for 37 scalps.
In the 11 Tests India has played outside the subcontinent in 2018, India’s bowlers have picked up 205 out of 220 wickets available to them. When taking into mind that India lost the Lord’s Test against England by an innings, they have effectively picked up 205 out of the 210 available wickets.
It would not be too far-fetched to say that India’s core strength in the Test squad now lies in its fast bowling (and Kohli of course) which is a far cry from the teams of the 1990s and early 2000s which were mostly dependent on batting.
It has been a strange reversal of trends but it is one that Indian fans will absolutely not mind.
While Bumrah, Shami and Ishant have done the bulk of the bowling, there are also Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav lying in the reserves which makes the overall strength of the pace battery even more impressive.
The pace attack has rightly been gaining the accolades from all corners with several former players and pundits terming it as the best that India have ever produced in its history. On the basis of their 2018 showing, it is hard to argue otherwise.
India needed just 27 balls to wrap up their first Test win in Melbourne since 1981.
The tourists were on the cusp of victory after the fourth day at the MCG but Pat Cummins provided stubborn resistance as Australia had two wickets in hand.
They were chasing an unlikely target of 399 but were helped when rain began to fall in Victoria on Sunday morning.
After an early lunch, Cummins resumed on 63 and Nathan Lyon on seven, needing to see through 71 overs to draw the Test, or score 141 runs to chalk up an unlikely victory.
Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma were on bowling duties and had a maiden and wicket each.
The key wicket of Cummins came off the bowling of Bumrah, the Australian edging to Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip without adding to his overnight score.
Seven balls later and Australia’s fate was confirmed as Lyon tried a pull off Sharma and was caught behind for seven as India won by 137 runs.
The win means India retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy ahead of the final Test in Sydney in the New Year.
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.
AFGHANISTAN AND IRELAND MAKE TEST BOWS
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.
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.
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.
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.
LIMITED-OVERS BATSMAN OF THE YEAR
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.
LIMITED-OVERS BOWLER OF THE YEAR
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.
TEST BATSMAN OF THE YEAR
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.
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.