Year 2008 has not been a particularly good year for the rookies. Apart from Ishant Sharma and Ajantha Mendis, it’s very difficult to find names that took the cricketing world by storm with consistent performances throughout the year.
Though Gautam Gambhir had already established himself as an ODI and T20 batsman, it was in 2008 that he finally emerged as a class apart in the Test team and also formed a world class opening pair with mercurial Virender Sehwag.
There are some players like Australian offie Jason Krejza and Indian leggie Amit Mishra, who burst onto the international scene with sensational performances in their respective debut Tests in the recently concluded India-Australia series. But their careers are too short to level them as future stars.
The first session of Indian Premier League (IPL) saw some obscure players like Shaun Marsh, Ashok Dinda, MS Gony and Yusuf Pathan. But, again, apart from Marsh they either played too little international cricket or are yet to make it to the national sides to term them as emerging players.
The cancellation of several series in Pakistan also played a huge role in denying the world of some raw talent from the country.
Ajantha Mendis: This unorthodox Sri Lankan spinner took the cricket pundits by surprise with his variety and guile. Unlike other great exponents of the craft he doesn’t like to stick to either legspin or off-spin, but can bowl six different balls to confuse even the greatest of the greats.
Mendis, with his unorthodox approach, took the spin bowling to a new level when he toured the Caribbean Islands in the beginning of 2008. If the exploits in the West Indies in ODIs earned him a place parallel to fellow Sri Lankan great Muralitharan, the feat in his debut Test series against the mighty Indians, where he set a new world record of taking highest number of wickets (26) for any debutant, compelled the pundits to predict him as the next highest wicket taker in the days to come. The ICC also rewarded him with the Emerging Player of 2008 where he piped Ishant Sharma narrowly.
Ishant Sharma: The emergence of this tall and lanky fast bowler has played a big role in cementing India’s place right at the top of cricketing nations replacing Australia after a long time. Though he showed his glimpses of talent during the tour Down Under at the end of 2007, the year 2008 saw him playing an important role in several of India’s victories. In the home series against Aussies, he kept on bamboozling the Oz top order by scalping 15 wickets that helped him top the wicket-taking list in the series and also fetched him man of the series award.
A real fast bowler, who can bowl at 150 kph, his great strength is his line and length. It’s this unique quality that has led people to take him seriously and even compare him with Australian great Glen McGrath.
Shaun Marsh: When Shaun Marsh started his campaign in the IPL with Kings XI Punjab, very few could have foreseen the genius that was in him. But this son of former Australian great Geoff Marsh set the IPL on fire with his tremendous batting skills.
This Western Australian cricketer emerged as the highest run-getter in the IPL that forced the Australian national selectors to include him in the ODI series in West Indies where he performed fairly well. In ODIs he has played so far, he scored 437 runs at a healthy average of over 47. Though he is yet to get into the Test side, he is really a player to watch out for the future.
Jason Krejza: Jason Krejza’s heroics in the Nagpur Test where he made his debut against India must be a welcome relief for the Australian cricket team, which has been suffering from acute shortage of quality spinners in the aftermath of Shane Warne and Stuart McGill’s retirement.
The little known New South Wales bowler had a relatively short domestic career when he toured India. His disappointing performance in the warm-up match against Board President’s XI saw Cameroon White piping him for a spot in the final XI for the first three Tests.
But White’s lackluster show and spin wizard Bishan Singh Bedi’s praise (who visited Oz nets to boost their spinners at Kotla) helped him make his debut. He took the chance with both hands bamboozling Indian batsmen with 12 wickets in that Test. His performance is inspiring because he never shied away from flighting the ball to the great Indian batsmen who are considered nightmares for any off-spinner.
Amit Mishra: Just when India were struggling to find an able replacement for their ageing leggie Anil Kumble, Amit Mishra raised his hands to carry the baton from the great cricketer. In his debut Test at Nagpur, he took the Australians by surprise with his legspin and googly.
Playing as a replacement for Kumble, his performance inspired Kumble to make a final call on his illustrious cricket career at his favourite hunting ground-Kotla.
A hard worker to the core, he took over 300 wickets in the first class cricket while playing for his home state Haryana and India A team. Though he got his first taste of international cricket as early as 2003, he was jettisoned after playing only three ODIs. Out of favour for five years, he successfully hogged the limelight again with his brilliant performance in the IPL.
Yusuf Pathan: Unlike his younger brother Irfan, the rise of Yusuf Pathan has been through the ranks. A hard hitting middle-order batsman and a useful off spinner, Pathan burst on to the scene with some scintillating performances in Ranji Trophy while playing for Baroda. His performance saw him get a place in the Indian squad for T20 World Cup when Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly decided to opt out.
Though he got his only chance in the all important final against Pakistan, he did not do well except hitting a six off Asif while opening the innings. And then came the IPL in which the world saw the true talents of the elder Pathan under the leadership of Shane Warne. Pathan impressed one and all with his measured bowling and some lusty hitting that helped Rajasthan Royals script several wins.
His IPL heroics forced the selectors to include him in the ODI series that followed. Though he failed to impress the selectors in his early matches, he finally heralded his international journey with the blistering unbeaten 29-ball-50 at Indore against England in his comeback series.