Sachin-inspired Team India complete an eventful year
New Delhi: Numbers alone can never define a legend called Sachin Tendulkar. Yet it`s difficult to do away with number crunchers when you talk of a legend whose only competitor over the years has been he himself.
2010 will definitely be an year which will be etched in the memories of cricket crazy Indians for two of the most astonishing feats in world cricket.
The first man to score a double hundred in one-dayers -- the moment Tendulkar steered South African pacer Charl Langeveldt for a single, a new chapter in Indian cricket unfolded at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior.
But the maestro never stops from creating a higher benchmark for himself which elevates him to a different pedestal --- many notches above his peers.
That`s what happened when he scored the historic 50th Test century at the Supersport Park earlier this month.
Reaching the pinnacle of any sport is a difficult task. Even more difficult is to sustain that top position for a consistent period of time.
In what turned out to be an eventful year in Indian cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his band of bravehearts did well to sustain their top position among the Test playing nations.
There were people who were skeptical about Team India`s dominance in the longer version of the game but those doubts were put to rest with some consistent performance at home by Dhoni`s men.
If Team India has come of age with some solid performances in both Tests and ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar made it even more memorable with two Herculean feats.
It`s not that Tendulkar`s greatness would have been any less had he not achieved this dual milestones, but his burning desire to succeed after having achieved almost everything in his glorious career of over 21-years make the millions of cricket crazy Indian fans love him even more with passage of time.
Tendulkar has made the most telling contribution with seven Test centuries and over 1500 Test runs but credit should also go to `Captain Cool` Dhoni who proved to be an able general in pressure situations.
The characteristics that separated this current Indian team from earlier ones is the will to fight their way out of trouble.
A testimony to that was the nerve-wracking Test match that India won against South Africa at Eden Gardens to level the series with Harbhajan Singh getting the last South African wicket of the final over of the fifth day amidst deafening support from the partisan crowd.
The victory was even more praiseworthy considering the fact Indians were browbeaten in the first Test match at Nagpur where they lost by an innings.
If that wasn`t enough, Indians again showed their penchant for comebacks when VVS Laxman played through pain to score a brilliant century at Colombo as India levelled the Test series after being beaten by 10 wickets at Galle.
That match turned out to be the last one for Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan who got eight wickets to finish with an astonishing 800 victims.
The best Test victories of recent times was certainly the one India won at Mohali beating Australia by one wicket. It needed a special effort from `Very Very Special` Laxman who overcame pain barrier to play one of the finest Test knocks in recent years.
With Ishant Sharma, he achieved what first looked improbable and then impossible.
If Laxman`s artistry amidst pain gave India the lead, Tendulkar`s brilliance brought the Aussies down on their knees as India recorded a 2-0 series victory.
Dhoni`s men weren`t exactly impressive during their 1-0 Test series victory against the New Zealand but the series will be remembered for Harbhajan Singh`s coming of age as a capable lower-order Test batsman.
Agreed the tracks at Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad and Uppal Stadium in Hyderabad were featherbeds, but no one can take the sheen away from `Turbanator`s back-to-back tons which made him the second highest scorer in the series after Virender Sehwag.
If India`s performance in Test matches have been pretty steady, they haven`t done too badly in ODIs either.
The talking point will obviously be the Asia Cup triumph in Sri Lanka.
The tournament will be best remembered for Harbhajan Singh`s huge six off Mohammed Aamer that knocked Pakistan out of the tourney.
That shot over mid-wicket certainly made Indian fans feel touch relieved as they got the monkey off their backs after Chetan Sharma`s full-toss to Javed Miandad met the same fate some 24 years back.
Apart from success in the Asia Cup, the 5-0 win against New Zealand with a second string side should also be lauded.
As one harps on the positives, the emergence of Virat Kohli as a dependable ODI batsman, Ravichandran Ashwin`s miserly bowling and Gautam Gambhir fighting his way back from the rough patch with consecutive centuries were worth taking note of.
The couple of blots that will still remain despite having a good year will certainly be the failure to reach the semi-finals of the World T20 Championship in West Indies having failed to achieve the goal in England, the previous year too.
Also India`s humiliating defeat against South Africa at Centurion in the first Test will definitely hurt the fans. The age-old disease of not being able to cope with the bounce and seam movement came back to haunt the Indians as they succumbed to an innings defeat.
The age-old malady of match-fixing, once again came back in a new avatar known as `spot-fixing`, to rock world cricket.
Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer have been provisionally suspended for spot-fixing as Aamer and Asif have been alleged to have bowled deliberate no-balls at the behest of skipper Butt.
The role of bookies again came into prominence as a British tabloid exposed the murky world of cricket with bookie Mazhar Majeed making claims as to how he engaged leading Pakistani players to fix matches.
To add insult to injury, little-known wicketkeeper batsman Zulqarnain Haider fled from Dubai during Pakistan`s ODI series against South Africa to seek asylum in United Kingdom.
Zulqarnain has hence said a number of times that he received threats and was asked to deliberately under-perform but has not yet substantiated his claims.
It was also the year that saw the epic downfall of Lalit Modi who was ousted from the BCCI and his brainchild IPL for alleged misappropriation of funds and trying to `fix` the auction of teams.
It was also Modi`s infamous tweet revealing former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor`s role in getting the Kochi consortium together that led to junior foreign minister having to resign from his post.
If that wasn`t enough, two teams that enjoyed Modi`s backing -- the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab – were barred from competing by the Indian cricket board, a decision that was challenged by both franchises in court and after getting favourable verdict are now likely to compete in the fourth edition of the cash-rich league.