Death on the field rocked the cricketing world

Lanka's World T20 triumph and Kiwis' rise highlighted the year

Death on the field rocked the cricketing world

The year that began with the high of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash of England ended tragically for Australia as the nation plunged into a deep sorrow following the death of their young batsman Phillip Hughes after being hit by a bouncer on the back of his neck.

Elsewhere, England’s fortunes rose and fell like a volatile stock market with more than a dash of controversy stirred up by a tell-all book by the sacked Kevin Pietersen.

The annual drama between the West Indies Cricket Board and its players culminated in the team’s embarrassing pull out from its India tour. Sri Lanka annexed the World T20 title, to go with their Asia Cup triumph earlier in the year, to become the third subcontinental team to win the biennial tournament.

New Zealand came up with some inspirational performances in Tests and Pakistan lived up to their tag of ‘unpredictable’ by humbling the mighty Australia 2-0 in the Test series in the UAE.

Cricket in 2014 was eventful indeed.

Hughes’ death overshadowed everything else in the cricketing world for over a week. The response from around the globe was staggering and the show of emotions was overwhelming. Not a day in Adelaide, which hosted the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, passed without a tribute to the deceased left-handed batsman, who probably would have been playing in that match in place of Michael Clarke.

The Australian skipper, who put his career on line to play the Test, became the darling of Australia. His leadership qualities off the field and his soul-stirring speeches elevated his position among his countrymen.

 The passing away of the New South Welshman also raised a debate over whether bouncers should be banned but the issue was settled when Varun Aaron sent down one to David Warner in the fourth over of the first Test in Adelaide. 
The Ashes drubbing within a year of winning it for the third time in succession had a debilitating effect on England’s subsequent performances.  Their graph in ODIs continued to dip, eventually resulting in the sacking of Alastair Cook as captain while there were mixed outcomes in Tests.

Sri Lanka surprised them with a 1-0 win which was somewhat offset by their 3-1 verdict against the inept tourists from India. The English cricket was also mired in controversy with Pietersen revealing the alleged shenanigans of their board officials and the high-handedness of some of his team-mates who, Pietersen accused, had formed a powerful clique within the team.
And talking of controversy, West Indies got themselves entangled in a massive trouble when their team pulled out of India’s tour that left the Board of Control for Cricket in India seething in anger.

The WICB didn’t accede to players’ demand for higher wages while the players didn’t budge from their position that led to abandonment of the series. How badly the move is going to hurt the finances of the West Indies cricket remains to be seen though.

The financial position of India, Australia and England only got stronger with the implementation of the new revenue sharing formula. According to the new structural changes, the Big Three not only will have major control over the running of the International Cricket Council but will also take home a bigger pie from the revenues earned from its various avenues.

The changes in power structure ensured that N Srinivasan, who is fighting to be re-installed as the BCCI president in the face of an adverse court order, became its first Chairman and the position will be rotated between the India, England and Australia.      

Having fallen out of favour of the BCCI, South Africa were marginalised in the new set-up. While Cricket South Africa’s influence remains greatly reduced, their cricket team continued its domination, finishing as the No 1-ranked Test playing nation again.

There was also a complete transfer of leadership with Graeme Smith, the world record holder as captain in most Test matches at 107, surprised everyone with his retirement aged only 33 at the end of their home series against Australia in Cape Town.

Jacques Kallis had retired from Tests at the end of 2013 and the great all-rounder called time on his international career by quitting ODIs during the tour of Sri Lanka.
The islanders themselves bid adieu to one of their greatest batsmen -- Mahela Jayawardane.

The stylish right-hander, along with his team-mate Kumar Sangakkara, had retired from T20Is after the World T20 and he quit the Tests after the home series against Pakistan. Jayawardane and Sangakkara also played the last of their ODI matches at home against England and the duo will retire from the 50-over format after 2015 World Cup.

The year will also be remembered for ICC’s crackdown on bowlers with suspect actions, a drive that had several leading spinners being reported and sent for corrective measures. Prominent among them was Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal.

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