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The year in review: Winners and Losers in 2004


A major let down

By Dhondy
December 31 2004

Dhondy takes a look at some of the top teams and individuals who performed and failed to perform over the last year in tests. The teams:

Winners:

Australia:
The world champions continued their blinding run with 5 successive serires victories. The final frontier finally fell in the charge of the Yellow Brigade, so well planned that it would make the conquest of Troy look like a schoolboy romp. In addition, they blitzed SriLanka at home three-nothing, decimated NZ in two away tests, and dismissed Pakistan from their presence with royal insouciance. They remain the team to beat for the rest of the world.

England:
Charged up the ranks with a series of 8 consecutive victories over WI, NZ, and SA. Showed strength in chasing down totals, and a steely resolve in the face of adversity, hitherto not seen in English teams. The Ashes this summer will be the litmus test.

India:
Began their good work by winning the Adelaide test in 2003, and carried on by nearly upsetting the Oz applecart at Sydney with a mind-boggling 705 for 7. Made history in the spring by defeating Pakistan in Pakistan, with two innings defeats thrown in for good measure. Suffered a hiccup against the world champs for the first time in 35 years at home, but recovered marvellously to snatch the Mumbai test from the jaws of defeat with a display that epitomized courage & determination. SA were duly despatched & the two innings defeat demolitions of BD were merely a stroll in the park. Began the new ICC rankings at a lowly sixth and hacked their way up to third.

Losers

Pakistan:
The feel good factor of the home victory over SA was dissipated by the comprehensive loss to arch rivals India at home. This was followed by a lacklustre performance against the Sri Lankans at home, and finally ended with complete and utter capitulation to the world champions away. Lost 5 of the last 7 tests, winning only two.

West Indies:
Fell to a new low with six defeats in seven tests by England home & away. This, inspite of the quite pointless 400 by Lara at Antigua. The once proud nation stands on the brink of cricketing anonymity.

New Zealand:
The promise of 2003 disappeared in smoke in spite of holding SA to a draw at home for the first time. Were whitewashed by England away, and then conceded both tests to Australia at home. The victory against BD was scant consolation.

South Africa:The proud legacy of Hansie Cronje has been well & truly lost through away defeats to India, Pakistan & SL, and by conceding the first home test to England. This is a team in turmoil, beset by the quota system, and buffeted by strange goings-on at the top, exemplified by the continuing exclusion of Boucher from the national team. Difficult times ahead.

The players:

Winners

Damien Martyn:
Six centuries in the year tell their own story. That four of them came on the dustbowls of India & SL when his team needed them the most is even more creditable. Has finally put six years of banishment from test cricket as a result of one rash shot behind him with knocks of great resolve and steel.

Virender Sehwag:
Not many people can boast of being the highest run scorer for his team for three consecutive series, but Sewhag achieved exactly that as an opener, no less, against Pakistan, Australia, & South Africa. As if that wasn't enough, he became the first triple centurion from his country. Universally accepted as the most destructive batsman in the world today, alongside Adam Gilchrist, it's his kiss-my-a.ss temparament that endears him to all Indians. His stats in 2004 tell their own story and need no embellishment.

Justin Langer:
After an average series against India, roared into form with double tons against NZ and Pakistan, the latter when all others floundered. Has emerged as the best player of pace bowling in the world.

Rahul Dravid:
Began 2004 as the No.2 batsman and ended as the no.1. In spite of a very average performance against Australia at home by his own lofty standards, his epic 270 at Rawalpindi stands out. Averaged 95 against the South Africans, and got his ritual ton against BD. Remains the best away performer in world cricket by a country mile.

Andrew Strauss
Debutant of the year. Very few people score debut tons home and away, and Strauss surely is a rare talent. Plays very straight and possesses superb horizontal bat shots.

Jacques Kallis:
His father's death only incresaed his determination to become the best batsman in the world. Ended the year with the best average of all, and as the no.2 batsman in the world.

Andrew Flintoff:
Showed huge improvements in both batting and bowling, and his knack of delivering under pressure makes him one of the most valuable players in the world.

Glenn McGrath:
The old warhorse made a stirring comeback to test cricket with a dogged performance against India & NZ, and a virtuoso display versus Pakistan in the first test. Remains the best fast bowler in the world.

Steve Harmison:
Finally put his home sickness behind him and became the architect of England's historical victory against WI away. The most improved fast bowler.

Anil Kumble:
Answered critics by bagging the most wickets of all bowlers in 2004. His performances against Australia & Pakistan set him apart as the match winner he always was.

Michael Kasprowicz:
The lanky Queenslander came in from the cold against SL & India, and straightaway produced a performance that left the more established bowlers in shade. Reverse swinging, seaming te ball both ways, mixing guile with genuine pace, he appeared unplayable at times, and quickly made himself indispensable to his team. One of the success stories of the year.

Losers

Matthew Hayden:
Form is temporary, but class is permanent. But what's his class? After an amazingly successful couple of years, Hayden's fortunes unravelled in 2004, with a poor series against India, and a shocking couple of tests against Pakistan, where he looked like a tailender. Maybe the strain of writing cookbooks is telling on the Tarzan lookalike.

Brett Lee:
The overhyped express bowler conceded 200 runs in one innings at Sydney, conveniently found an injury, and never made it back to the Australian team. Upstaged by Kasprowicz, his test career appears to have stalled.

Shaun Pollock:
This once great pace bowler has lost so much pace that he is in danger of being considered a trundler. One of the architects of South Africa's success in the 90s along with Allan Donald, his decline is sad to see.

Inzamam-ul-Haq:
More than his individual form, it was his captaincy that left a lot to be desired. Laid back to the point of being horizontal, the gentle giant infuriates his compatriots by his lack of initiative and energy on the field. He did his undeserved reputation as one of the best players of pace no good by capitulating tamely against the Australian new bowlers at Perth.

Mohammad Sami:
The talent is there, the heart is there, the attitude is there....so why not the wickets? The elfin pace bowler remains a source of frustration for Pakistani supporters in spite of being obviously gifted.

Zaheer Khan:
This overrated bowler was found out in 2004. Was injured for the Pakistan series, and then found that he simply couldn't fill Balaji's shoes. Bowled well only in patches, and was carted around by Bangladeshi batsmen, of all people. But for the Indian captain's benevolence, he would be history.

Nathan Astle:
The talented middle order batsman is fading fast. Did not produce a single notable performance for his country in 2004.

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