Virat Kohli's mixed year and the rise of Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane: Cricket's hits and misses in 2018
Here's our list of winners and losers from the world of cricket this year
2018 has been a great year for India captain Virat Kohli as far as batting is concerned. Not only has he topped the ICC batsmen's rankings in Tests and one-day internationals, he also reached 10,000 runs in ODIs this year. He also made a breakthrough with the bat against the likes of James Anderson on India's Test tour of England. Michael Dodge / Getty Images
Australia have three top-class fast bowlers in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. Yet, it is off-spinner Nathan Lyon who has emerged as his Test side's strike bowler. At 31, he is peaking and has performed brilliantly all over the world. He has even succeeded against the Indian batsmen, who are famed for their innate ability to play spin. Michael Dodge / Getty Images
One of the many positives for the England Test side has been leg-spinner Adil Rashid's emergence as their No 1 spinner. His rise is timely given that England have been in search of a long-term replacement for the now-retired Graeme Swann. Rashid's stock has risen so much that the national selectors were eager to pick him for Tests despite his opting out of playing English county's four-day competition so he could focus on his limited-overs career. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson's stupendous performance with the bat against Pakistan in the UAE last month alone would be enough for him to be in this list. That he also led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the Indian Premier League final is a bonus, even though his side were beaten by much-too-strong Chennai Super Kings at the last hurdle. Williamson's image as the humble captain comes as a breath of fresh air at a time when more players are getting into trouble for their poor attitude on and off the field. Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images
UAE cricket has seen its stock rise even further, with the Emirates being chosen as the venue to stage high-profile tournaments, such as the Asia Cup, as well as the ever growing number of franchise competitions, including the Afghanistan Premier League, the Abu Dhabi T20 and the T10 League. The national team have performed well, too, while their players are attracting attention from leagues around the world - such as the ones in Nepal and Canada. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Just 18 years old, Sandeep Lamichhane is already much sought after by franchises all over the world. Just this year the Nepal leg-spinner has played in the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League, Global T20 Canada, Afghanistan Premier League, Australia's Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League, the T10 League and of course, the Everest Premier League in Nepal. This is aside from representing his national team who he almost helped qualify for the 2019 World Cup. Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images
England's Joe Root has endured an up and down year with the bat, but he has come of age as the leader of the national Test side. The manner in which he captained England to Test series victories at home against India and away to Sri Lanka is commendable, and a hundred in difficult conditions during the Pallekele Test marks him for potential greatness. Reuters
It is odd for a player of Babar Azam's talent to have taken 17 matches to score his first Test century. But the Pakistan middle-order batsman finally broke his duck in Dubai against New Zealand last month. The top-ranked batsman in international Twenty20 cricket has proved he is a man for all formats, and there is no mistaking his class when is out in the middle. It is safe to say 2018 has been something of a breakout year for the budding star. AFP
Aaron Finch is the perennial late-bloomer of Australian cricket. After his Twenty20 international debut at a reasonable age of 24 in 2011, he took two years to play his first one-day international - despite his obvious abilities in the limited-overs format - and then got his breakthrough in Tests just this year, against Pakistan in the UAE. The good thing is he is making up for lost time. He was named T20 captain in 2014 and ODI leader in 2018. He has become an important cog in the Australian wheel at a time when they are missing the services of the suspended Steve Smith and David Warner. EPA
Two years after making his limited-overs debut in Australia, Jasprit Bumrah was handed his first Test cap early in 2018. And what a year it has been for the India fast bowler. He has already taken 39 wickets in eight appearances (not counting the ongoing Melbourne game). The right-armer was excellent in South Africa, England and Australia, where fast bowlers are expected to do well. But he has shown maturity that belies his age and experience. If he stays fit and focused, he could become an India great in the years to come. Trevor Collens / AP Photo
There is no better slow bowler in limited-overs cricket than Afghanistan's Rashid Khan. He has set the template for how leg-spinners should bowl in Twenty20 cricket - and he has done it at just 20 years of age. He also featured prominently in Afghanistan's first ever Test - against India in Bangalore this year - and even though he did not shine there, he will look forward to the challenge of developing his skills for the longest format of the game. Albert Perez / Getty Images
There are two things Rohit Sharma, third from left, has demonstrated this year: one is his ability to dominate any bowling attack in any given conditions in limited-overs cricket; and the other is leading the Indian team ably in the absence of Virat Kohli. Rohit's crowning achievement this year was leading India to the Asia Cup title in the UAE. And in the unlikely event Kohli, who plays a lot of cricket all year round, decides that he has too much on his plate, Rohit can easily slip into full-time captaincy duties. AFP
Virat Kohli - pet obsession of the cricketing world, and admittedly also ours - makes it to the lists of winners and losers of 2018.
Well, remember that remark by veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah about the India captain being "the world's best batsman and the world's worst-behaved player"? It sort of makes sense.
It will be fascinating, therefore, to see which Kohli turns up next year: Good Kohli, or Bad Kohli, or both.
Meanwhile a few slow bowlers have made our 2018 winners' list, precisely because spinners have done well this year - especially leg-spinners, and particularly in Twenty20 cricket.
We haven't profiled just individual personalities but entire teams as well. It is also worth noting that the presence of certain names in certain lists, such as that of England's Jonny Bairstow, might leave you puzzled. But we have our rationale, so bear with us.
The winners' list is in the photo gallery above, while the losers' one is in the one below. To move on to the next photo, click on the arrows, or if using a mobile device, simply swipe.
Virat Kohli had an excellent year with the bat. But his image as a role model may have taken a beating. His needless rant at an Indian fan, asking him to leave the country for saying he enjoyed watching England and Australia batsmen play more than he did Kohli, was immature at best and bigoted at worst. His run-ins with the media in South Africa and England betrayed a siege mentality, and his confrontation with Australia captain Tim Paine in Perth garnered mixed reactions in India and abroad. Michael Dodge / Getty Images
Australia's cricket establishment was mired in a crisis this year after Steve Smith, left, David Warner, right, and Cameron Bancroft admitted to being involved in a ball-tampering episode during the Cape Town Test against South Africa. The trio was suspended and some of Cricket Australia's top office-bearers resigned. Justin Langer was appointed coach in place of Darren Lehmann, and it was decided that the team had to weed out their hyper-competitiveness and a win-at-all-cost mentality that had made them successful but unlikeable. It also meant having a relook at sledging. Dave Hunt / EPA
It has been one of the worst years for Sri Lankan cricket fans. Their team did not make it to the final of a competition they hosted - the Nidahas T20 - nor did they make it past the first round of the Asia Cup in the UAE, being pipped by Bangladesh and Afghanistan, both less accomplished sides, in their group. They were also beaten by England in a home Test series. Add to that, Sri Lanka Cricket has witnessed extremely damaging turf wars between factions that have led to mass resignations of selectors and key board members. Pawan Singh / The National
Sarfraz Ahmed's captaincy has come under scrutiny following the Pakistan team's chequered performances in 2018. They failed to qualify for the Asia Cup final in the UAE despite going into the tournament as favourites and with 'home advantage'. Their 2-1 Test series defeat to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi made it worse. And although they beat Australia in the Test and T20 series shortly before that, Pakistan's batsmen have been criticised for being unable to deliver while under pressure. The spotlight will, therefore, be on Sarfraz over the next few months. AP Photo
When Lokesh Rahul looks back at 2018, the India opener will have just the one century he scored against England - that, too, in a dead rubber - worth remembering. He did score a wonderful fifty in the Asia Cup against Afghanistan, but he will rue the fact he has still not managed to hold down a place in the ODI side. He endured a poor first two Tests in Australia before being dropped for the ongoing match in Melbourne. His technique and penchant to go after the opposition bowling too early in the innings are primary reasons for his failure. He will have much work to do in the new year to regain his place. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Murali Vijay will remember 2018 as the year he got dropped from India's Test team not once but twice. His struggles at the top of the order meant he was dropped midway through the Test series in England. He failed to cash in after being asked to open in the ongoing series Down Under in the absence of the injured Prithvi Shaw. Like opening partner Lokesh Rahul, Vijay was also dropped for Melbourne. At least Rahul has age on his side - he is only 26. Vijay, eight years older, must think his days as an international cricketer are numbered. AFP
Another ageing player under pressure to keep his place in the Indian team, MS Dhoni has struggled with the bat all year. And the selectors and the paying public are beginning to lose their patience with the former captain. Fans were heard booing the otherwise popular figure during a game in England this year. That he is still playing is down to his reputation as India's twice World Cup-winning captain, his considerable experience, and the respect he still holds among his teammates - particularly current captain Virat Kohli. Having said that, the wicketkeeper-batsman had some memorable moments at the Asia Cup in the UAE, where he had the chance to lead the side for one game. His famous intuition was for all to see when he gave stand-in captain Rohit Sharma tactical advice that changed the course of a few matches. Pawan Singh / The National
It is admittedly odd to have Jonny Bairstow in this list, especially because he had a decent year. The England wicketkeeper-batsman is still ranked in the top 20 in Tests and one-day internationals. He hit two hundreds and as many fifties over 20 Test innings in 2018. He also scored four of his six ODI hundreds this year. But it was nonetheless a troubled 2018 for him, getting injured during the home Test series against India and then losing his spot in the side to the up-and-coming Ben Foakes, who cashed in with a hundred in his first match in Sri Lanka. The fact that Jos Buttler is also in the XI - albeit playing purely as a batsman - helps England immensely, as it gives the management options, but may not do Bairstow any favours. But rest assured he will be fighting hard to regain his place in 2019. Reuters
This is not as left-field a choice as that of Jonny Bairstow. Dale Steyn only just took his 422nd Test wicket - against Pakistan in Centurion on Wednesday - to become South Africa's highest wicket-taker. That being said, the fast bowler has had a near-barren 2018 during which time he took just five wickets before the Centurion game. In fact, it took more than three and a half years for Steyn to get from wicket number 400 to 422. The only reason for that has been a lack of match fitness: Steyn has suffered a string of career-hampering injuries since 2015. But if the 35 year old is to be believed, better days are in store for him, which is certainly not bad news from a neutral fan's perspective. Christiaan Kotze / AFP
The England team management's biggest problem has been its inability to find quality Test openers six years after Andrew Strauss retired. To complicate matters, his opening partner Alastair Cook ended his career this year. England have persisted with the young Keaton Jennings, who scored a hundred in Sri Lanka recently but has otherwise been below par. Troubling for England is the fact that Jennings is the 11th player to be tried in the opener's role since Strauss' retirement. Rory Burns and Jack Leach were the latest candidates to be tried with Cook having left the scene. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Good, bad and ugly of cricket in 2018: UAE taking centre stage, Virat Kohli's behaviour and ball-tampering
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Updated: December 27, 2018 03:23 PM