Hi folks, welcome back to DRS, which is Directly Rajdeep Sardesai and not the Decision Review System which is causing so much of controversy!
Let's look at the highs and lows of 2011.
First, the lows. Obviously right at the top is the spot-fixing scandal. It really exposed the dark underbelly of cricket and it's sad when a bowler who could well have become an all-time great like Mohammad Amir will perhaps never play the game again. I think it's a reminder to all of us that cricketers, at the end of the day, are humans. They're not immortals, they're not Gods, they're not demi-Gods, and they have, often, feet of clay and are tempted by greed. So it was sad to see cricketers being sent to jail, but perhaps it's a salutary lesson for future generations.
It was also sad, in a way, to see Pakistan not being able to play in home conditions, (and) to not see an Indo-Pak cricket series again. But hopefully – and that's one of my wishes for 2012 – we will see India and Pakistan back again, battling it out on a cricket field, because don't forget that 2011 World Cup semi-final. For me, it was one of the great matches of the year. In Mohali, two teams really in an eyeball-to-eyeball contact, only one team going to the World Cup final. So that really reflected what we’re missing in the game.
The other low, of course, was to watch Ricky Ponting struggling for form. Here is one of the all-time greats of the game, not scoring a hundred through the year. And to just watch Ponting battling with form in Test cricket is something sad, because you want a player like Ricky Ponting to exit on a glorious note. We still hope that he does that in 2012.
The other low, of course, was to watch the Australians struggle and get all for 40-odd in a Test match. I never thought I'd see the day when an Australia team would be dismissed for just 47 runs. And I think that shows again, the old adage, the glorious uncertainties of the game, and the fact that the wheel of cricket is changing.
Those are some of the lows of 2011.
The highs of 2011? Well, certainly right at the top is the World Cup win. What a remarkable achievement by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men!
I'm truly impressed by Dhoni. Through all that went wrong in England when India were smashed and all the highs of the World Cup, he's remained much the same – calm, almost zen-like in the way he deals with the media and the wider world. I think he deserves our appreciation for really becoming a role model of the kind of cricketer one would like to see. Someone who is able to not get overly excited by triumph and not be overly depressed by failure. That's what we’d like to see of more in our cricketers.
But I'll never forget that day in April. It was a day at the Wankhede Stadium when we all celebrated, after that long wait for a World Cup triumph. Particularly in home conditions, when the pressure in most intense.
Apart from Dhoni, there was, of course, Sachin Tendulkar. And look at it – at the start of the year, he could do no wrong, scoring hundreds after hundreds; and then he didn’t score a hundred for the last six or seven months and we wait for his 100th hundred. That's the nature of the game again! It can remind you that even the greats of the game like Sachin can, at times, struggle to achieve a milestone. I'm sure he'll get that 100th hundred in Australia, sooner rather than later.
What will be my final takeaway from 2011? My final takeaway, I think, is a sense, at the end of the day, through the spot-fixing scandal and all that's happened, is that we need to start treating cricket with greater reverence. I think there's too much of entertainment – too much of Big Bash and Twenty20 cricket, and I now see IPL equivalents coming up in Bangladesh. I am an old-fashioned romantic – I love Test cricket! I've loved the battles in Test cricket throughout the year – in Melbourne, in Johannesburg – and I'd like to see more of that. And if we really want to see that, we've got to start really appreciating the finer aspects of the game. Don't treat this game as just a circus. Cricket is something more special. Let’s not lose that special factor in our thirst for greed, quick money and for converting the game into a circus.
I look forward to a better, brighter and hopefully an enjoyable 2012, when it comes to this glorious game of cricket.