2012 Review: The best batsmen across all 3 formats
“Pampered batsmen have it too easy. It’ll be good to see them hobble on in pain” – Matthew Hoggard
Cricket is a batsman’s game and the above statement from the retired English medium pacer signifies the wrath the bowlers have against the ones wielding the willow. Since the initiation of the game way back in the 1800s, the bowlers have always been at the receiving end of the stick. The game, itself, was devised for batsmen, else why would it be a contest between a 38 inch long, almost 5 inch wide piece of willow against five ounces of round leather!
Every kid in India grows up with the ambition of becoming a Sachin Tendulkar but a precious few want to emulate a Glen McGrath. With the advent of the new rules and technologies, cricket has become a slaughterhouse for bowlers. Flatter pitches, shorter boundaries, heavier bats – the odds are loaded against the men who roll their arm over. However, it’s not that easy for the men who face them. Though they might be the pampered lot, a batsman has to still go out and score those runs. A bowler might bowl a half volley but one has to be good enough to take advantage of that. And now with introduction of the T20s, a batsman’s technique is under more scrutiny. Technology has made it even tougher for them. The wagon wheels and the score charts hand over the strengths and more importantly, the slightest chink to the opposition. But still, the “Goods” survive it but the “Greats” put on a display.
2012 saw some pure class bid sayonara to the gentlemen’s game. Sachin Tendulkar packed up his blue pyjamas while Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ricky Ponting locked up their coffins forever. But “the show must go on”. Legends bow out and the “Goods” step up the race to be the future Greats! Judging by mere stats is never the best measure of the competence of a batsman. Stats satisfy the geeks but the real romantics climax to the crisp work of the wrists and the dominance of a pull shot. So, let’s keep the stats aside and focus on a few who made their presence felt and dominated in all three formats of the game.
Once tagged as a one dimensional player, this Englishman has improved his game in leaps and bounds. He has not only cemented his place in all three formats, but also has been a prolific run getter for the number two Test team in the world. He held the English middle order together when Kevin Pietersen decided to use his Tweeting skills more than his power with the willow. His fluency against spin bowling held him in good stead when England received a drubbing against Pakistan and earned a hard fought draw at Sri Lanka. Though he had an ordinary series against India recently, his knock in the last test at Nagpur gave England their much fancied series win in the sub continent. Even in the colored clothing, Bell has been proficient. He has batted at various positions from three to five and has added an extra gear to his batting. No wonder he has topped the charts for England, beating the “I score when I want” – Captain Cook!
Carefree, classy, elegant, wasteful – a few adjectives that have always adorned this man from Jamaica. This year he’s added another one to that list – consistent. After a not-so-successful IPL foray for the Pune Warriors, Marlon Samuels has staged a career saving comeback in 2012. It’s not easy to overshadow someone like a Chris Gayle but this “cool” and classy right hander has been miles ahead of any of his compatriots. Often tagged as moody and extravagant, Samuels has got a second-wind that has finally set his sails in the correct direction. Man of the match in the T20 World Cup finals, double hundreds in Tests; after 10 years of soul searching, Marlon Samuels has finally arrived.
Out of the Aussie tour due to injury and the Lankan Lions have their tails between their legs. Very seldom does one come across someone as consistent as this Sri Lankan great. The newest member of the 10K club in Test cricket, Sangakkara has yet again been Sri Lanka’s mainstay in all formats of the game. It’s been sometime that Sri Lanka has produced a world class batting talent, so the responsibility of the big runs has always rested on the trio of Dilshan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara. However, this year both Jayawardene and Dilshan have been in a slump but Sangakkara has carried on his march with the bat. After parting away with the keeping gloves in the longer format, Sangakkara has become even more prolific with the willow.
India has been dismal this year but this Indian has been brilliant. If he became a master of the shorter format last year, this year he has grown in self-belief in white clothing. He started the year by hitting the darkest of all purple patches where he decimated Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the ODIs and then brought the house down on the Kiwis in the Tests at home. Even at the disappointing T20 World Cup, he emerged as India’s leading run getter. While he struggled in the first three tests at home against England, his stubborn innings at Nagpur brought him back into his element. With a team that has struggled to put up big scores consistently, this Delhi dynamite has stood tall amongst the ruins.
Undoubtedly, he is the best batsman in the world across all formats. If ever there had to be an advert on how to improve, this soft spoken Protean will surely be their brand ambassador. He doesn’t hit the ball out of the stadium nor does he search for the cow corner, yet he is one of the most feared batsman around the world. After an ordinary debut at the Eden Gardens, Hashim Amla has only risen in stature and while doing so, he has transformed into a graceful, non-violent, stroke making run machine. After his meteoric rise, Amla has gone on and amassed a jaw dropping tally of runs in every format. He was the missing piece in the Proteas’ puzzle and his sublime run with the bat has been the key reason for South Africa’s dominance in Test Cricket.
Apart from the batsmen mentioned above, Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook have also tamed the bowlers in every condition, raking up staggering scores, but since they do not feature in all formats for their countries, these five batsman beat them to the list. The Pontings, the Dravids and the Tendulkars may be gone but don’t let go of your seat belts, the new run machines have already set the wheels in motion!