Virat Kohli's brilliance and MS Dhoni's grand return to IPL along with the Sandpaper controversy were the list of major events in cricket in 2018. (Image credit: Newsnation)
The year 2018 witnessed plenty of twists, scandals and memorable moments. The Indian cricket team was once again gone back to the 90s, when they were ‘Tigers at Home and Lambs Abroad’. It was the time when Sachin Tendulkar carried the hopes of the nation while in 2018, Virat Kohli was the atlas of the side, carrying the weight of the nation on his shoulders. The year witnessed the Yellow Brigade giving the Indian Premier League a majestic touch. Chennai Super Kings, banned for two years, returned in grand style to the tournament under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. The colour yellow also proved to be scandalous, with sandpaper generating a major cricket storm. The year saw the sad departure of one of India’s premier match-winners. Here are all the memorable cricket moments of 2018.
1.) Finally breaking the jinx in South Africa
The year started off on a bad note for India after they lost the Test series 1-2 to South Africa. However, in the six-match ODI series, India finally created history and broke their rut in a country where they had limited success. In 21 years of touring South Africa, India had won just five ODIs. In 2018, they achieved the number in a single series. Virat Kohli’s 558 runs at an average of 186 and Kuldeep Yadav (17) and Yuzvendra Chahal (16) helped India beat South Africa 5-1 to secure their first-ever series win. It was definitely one of the high points of the year.
2.) Virat Kohli – Greatness and nothing but greatness
Writing on Virat Kohli’s achievements is not enough to fill a novel. Such was the level of consistency that the Indian skipper redefined the word. His exploits in South Africa, England and Australia cemented his reputation as one of the modern day greats. In South Africa, he mastered the conditions to become the only Indian player to score a century in the Tests and he backed it up with 558 runs. In England, he overcame the mastery of James Anderson and the swinging conditions to register 593 runs in the Tests. In ODIs, he broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record and became the fastest to 10,000 runs. In Australia, he smashed his sixth Test century. Kohli’s batsmanship was a sight for cricket connoisseurs.
3.) Sandpaper generates Category 5 cricket storm
No one imagined that sandpaper would create such a big controversy. In the Newlands Test between South Africa and Australia, Cameron Bancroft of Australia took out sandpaper from his pocket and attempted to tamper the condition of the ball. He was caught and the ramifications proved to be massive. Bancroft, along with Steve Smith and David Warner, were banned by Cricket Australia. The event destroyed Australia’s sporting reputation. Cricket Australia’s CEO and other core members were sacked. Australia’s ‘win at all costs’ culture was deemed toxic. The fall-out continues even today. This event has ensured that cricket would never be the same in Australia.
4.) Chennai Super Kings’ ultimate whistle podu
If one yellow generated controversy, the other brought sheer joy. Chennai Super Kings, who were banned from the IPL for two years due to the spot-fixing scandal, came back and the joy multiplied when the team was led by MS Dhoni. The team once again gave the Indian Premier League the flair it was missing. The team reached the final where they faced Sunrisers Hyderabad. Shane Watson blasted a century and Chennai Super Kings joined Mumbai Indians as the three-time IPL champions. It was the ultimate homecoming and whistle podu moment.
5.) James Anderson – King of swing now Emperor of pacers
In the era of Twenty20 cricket and three formats, the fast bowler is a rare commodity. However, England pacer James Anderson became the ultimate pacer in 2018. In the series against India, Anderson picked up 24 wickets, including 5/20 in the Lord’s Test. The crowning moment, though, came in the final Test at The Oval. Anderson bowled Mohammed Shami and picked up his 564th wicket, going past Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563 wickets and becoming the all-time leading wicket-taker for fast bowlers in Tests. His exploits ensured a rather ‘weak’ England side defeated India 4-1.
6.) Farewell to Cricket’s ultimate Chef
Alastair Cook was the colossus in the England batting through their years as the dominant Test side. His 60 and 104 against India in Nagpur in 2006 made him a star for the future. His 766 runs in England’s 3-1 series win in Australia in 2011 made him a bonafide legend. In the ensuing years, runs dried up from his blade but in the final Test of England’s international summer, Cook, nicknamed ‘The Chef’ had his crowning glory. After scoring 71 in the first innings, Cook ended his career just like had begun. A century in his last innings and the reception he received was testament to his status. With 12472 runs at an average of 45, it was sad to see Test cricket’s classical batsman end his career.
7.) Paki ‘stunned’ by New Zealand after 49 years
For the number alone, the time taken to achieve this feat was herculean. In the Abu Dhabi Test, Pakistan was going along well in their chase of 175. However, Ajaz Patel’s 5/59 resulted in a collapse and Pakistan lost the Test by four runs, their closest margin of loss in terms of runs against New Zealand. Yasir Shah’s 14 wickets in Dubai, the second-best by a Pakistan bowler, ensured the hosts were back on level terms but a classic century from Kane Williamson gave New Zealand victory by 123 runs in the final Test. The 2-1 series win gave New Zealand their first win in a ‘home’ series against Pakistan.
8.) Mithali-Harmanpreet face-off hurts India women’s cricket
When Mithali Raj, the most experienced player of the India women’s cricket team was benched for the semi-final of the women’s World T20 against England in West Indies, eyebrows were raised. India lost the match and was eliminated. Following the loss, things took an ugly turn. Reports emerged of Mithali’s manager accusing Harmanpreet Kaur, the skipper of being ‘manipulative’ and called her ‘unfit as captain’. Ramesh Powar, the coach, termed Mithali as ‘aloof’ and ‘difficult to work with’. Mithali, in turn, lashed out at Powar and accused CoA (Committee of Administrators) member Diana Edulji of bias. Powar’s tenure was not renewed and in the selection of a new coach, WV Raman was appointed. However, the entire episode fractured the India women’s cricket team dressing room.
9.) Gautam Gambhir walks into the sunset
He was the key factor when India won the 2007 World T20 and the 2011 World Cup. When Gautam Gambhir was dropped from the side, he was hurt but he continued to be a great servant to Indian cricket, mentoring and guiding the next line of cricketers in Delhi. When Gambhir announced his retirement by an emotional video message on Facebook, there was plenty of sadness. He scored a century in his last Ranji Trophy game against Andhra Pradesh and the felicitations, although slightly low key, highlighted the value of Gambhir.
10.) Steyn-Gun achieves immortality in South Africa
For two years ever since 2015, constant injury issues threatened to derail his career. When Dale Steyn went past 400 wickets in just 80 Tests during the series against Bangladesh in 2014, it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before he would break Pollock’s record. However, a combination of groin, shoulder and heel injuries resulted in him missing plenty of games for South Africa. Steyn, though, found redemption in the Test against Pakistan in Centurion. When Fakhar Zaman edged him to slip, Steyn went past Shaun Pollock’s record of 421 Test wickets to become the leading wicket-taker for South Africa.
The year started off disastrously for England. After being hammered 0-4 by Australia, they were reduced to 27/9 in the Pink Ball Test against New Zealand in Auckland. They were bowled out for 58 but New Zealand won the game and registered a series win against Joe Root’s side for the first time at home in over 30 years. The year ended on a high though, as they won in all three formats in Sri Lanka and achieved their first 3-0 whitewash in Asia.
In some areas, certain dominations continued. Australia’s Southern Stars won the Women’s World T20 for the fourth time. In Twenty20 Internationals, Pakistan won an unprecedented 11 consecutive bilateral series. There were some changes made in India’s domestic circuit. In the Ranji Trophy, teams from the North East like Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya participated as different teams for the first time. Puducherry, a union territory, also fielded a side for the first time. The Ranji Trophy witnessed Madhya Pradesh’s Ajay Rohera break a 25-year-old record by registering the highest score by a debutant in First Class cricket, with his 267 against Hyderabad beating Amol Muzumdar’s 260 which he made in 1993.