Osman Samiuddin looks back over the biggest stories, flops and surprises throughout cricket in 2012.
Team of the Year
South Africa. These are uncertain times as far as results in Test cricket go, but South Africa looked worthy of being the top side this year, having beaten England in England and Australia in Australia. And they have looked better equipped to hang on than either of the previous teams ranked No 1.
Batsman of the Year
Alastair Cook had another dutifully good year and Hashim Amla is still purring along like a luxury car (Test average 70.93 this year, 58.64 since the start of 2008) but Michael Clarke trumped them all. He began the year with a triple century and then hit three more doubles hundreds, a record in itself. And none of them were ground out (only one double was with a strike rate of less than 70); all typically Clarke, light, fleet-footed and utterly significant. Special mention for Virat Kohli and his outstanding one-day international year.
Bowler of the Year
All and any left-arm spinners simply because they do not even get noticed let alone win any awards. But this has been a bumper year for the breed, beginning with Abdur Rehman in the UAE, Rangana Herath, the year's top Test wicket-taker, then Pragyan Ojha and Monty Panesar in the India-England series. And when even South Africa's Robin Peterson takes six wickets at Perth in his only Test in four years, then you know it has been a vintage year.
Result of the Year
A wonderful and crazy year for Test results (England winning in India, Australia whitewashing India, Sri Lanka quietly sneaking past a resurgent Pakistan, South Africa comfortably beating England) but the one that set the tone for the year was Pakistan's whitewash of England in the UAE. Predicting a series win was only just on the right side of outlandish, but 3-0 was asylum-inducing stuff. The nature of the last two Tests - defending 145 and winning after being bowled out for under 100 - made it even more resonant.
Umpire of the Year
Mr D R System: he got less wrong decisions than any other umpire (certainly less than the real umpire of the year Kumar Dharmasena) and even made the right ones when he was not officiating.
Retirements of the Year
Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Andrew Strauss, Ricky Ponting, Simon Taufel and Sachin Tendulkar … oh wait.
SMS of the Year
Kevin Pietersen. On Andrew Strauss. To South Africa.
Video of the Year
Pietersen's U-turn in making himself available for all forms of cricket for England in a tumultuous summer was not made to the England management directly. Instead it was released as a self-made video on YouTube (because if it is not on YouTube, then it is not real). Only Psy's Gangnam Style was more cringeworthy all year.
Tweeter of the Year
@KPGenius, the spoof account set up by a Richard Bailey, parodying the self-obsession of Pietersen. Of course it had nothing to do with Pietersen's England teammate Stuart Broad, a close friend of Bailey's.
Cheap imitations of the Year
Step up the Bangladesh Premier League and the Sri Lanka Premier League, loud, crass, tacky and not nearly as glamorous as the original Indian Premier League. Good news: next year, there will be more from Pakistan and the West Indies.
Fairy tale of the Year
Did anything make you smile more than the West Indian triumph at the World T20 in Sri Lanka in October? They were everyone's second-favourite side and a fairly good shout to win it, but to actually go and win it? Spine-tingling stuff.
Career Switch of the Year
Andrew Flintoff: celebrity to boxer
Ijaz Butt Board of the Year
Step forward New Zealand Cricket (NZC). It was not strange enough that they hired a lawn bowls administrator to head their selection (or John Buchanan in fact). But to then let John Wright go as coach and replace him with Mike Hesson, who was coaching Kenya before this? And to let Hesson then bungle up Ross Taylor's captaincy?
Year's Inappropriate Word
Most Anti-Climactic Hundred
Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international hundred, a nation having held its breath for exactly a year and 33 international innings in anticipation. It came, finally, in Dhaka, against Bangladesh, a slow, nervous innings. And it came in a loss.
An international cricket series held in the UAE in August and September. Without even one heat-related death.
Down in Australia, where a fast bowler looks to be going the way of the dodo. They broke down roughly at the rate of one an hour, through not just this year alone, but also some of the last: Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Patrick Cummins, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood and now Ben Hilfenhaus have all missed out or are missing out. Luckily, they produce young, promising fast bowlers at almost the same rate: if Jackson Bird debuts against Sri Lanka, he will be Australia's seventh fast bowler this summer.
Rumour of the Year
That Duncan Fletcher is coaching India.
Feuds of the Year
Tempting as it was to plump for the BCCI (against anyone: Sky TV, the BBC, international news agencies, etc) no fight was bigger than the BBC's Test Match Special taking on the indy favourites, Test Match Sofa, a website offering commentary on games. So many layers beyond the main clash of rights holders and non-rights holders: establishment v upstart, old v young, stale v fresh, traditional media v new media, cakes v curries. For a few weeks, it brought a nation to a standstill.
TOP FIVE PLAYERS
Went from being very good to potentially great. He always had it in him as a batsman, but this year he has scored big, big runs: all his hundreds have been doubles (and a triple as well). Throughout the year, the game's most innovative captain.
When he finally steps away - and that is a long, long time away - most batting records will probably belong to Cook. His first real challenge as Test captain in India was, in hindsight, completely unsurprising.
The most dangerous spinner in the world and, arguably, the most dangerous bowler. Ajmal's role in dismantling England at the start of the year was instrumental in setting the narrative for the entire year of Test cricket. Shame he only played three more Tests.
In a standout year for South Africa and in a team full of heroes, Amla was a first among equals. The highlight was the unbeaten 311 at Lord's, but the two hundreds in Australia at the end of the year, going by almost unnoticed, were little masterpieces as well.
Herath was the leading Test wicket taker this year in what was a difficult period for Sri Lanka, generally. Although not nearly as effective away from home, he has settled in now as Sri Lanka's leading spinner.
TOP 5 RUNS
Michael Clarke (Australia) 1,489
Alastair Cook (England) 1,249
Hashim Amla (South Africa) 1,064
Kevin Pietersen (England) 1,053
Jonathan Trott (England) 1,005
TOP 5 BOWLERS
Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka) 60
Graeme Swann (England) 59
James Anderson (England) 48
Vernon Philander (South Africa) 43
Stuart Broad (England) 40
TOP 5 CATCHES (Not by a wicketkeeper)
Graeme Smith (South Africa) 23
Darren Sammy (West Indies) 20
Jacques Kallis (South Africa) 18
Michael Clarke (Australia) 18
Andrew Strauss (England) 14
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