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20 from 2020: The events that a tumultuous year of cricket will be remembered for

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The 20 events that defined 2020

@ IPL T20

20 from 2020: The events that a tumultuous year of cricket will be remembered for

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Anirudh Suresh

12/30/2020

2020 was basically like every other year of cricket, except on DMT. 12 months of action and more were sandwiched into six, and so intense, high-octane, and hyper was the action that is, to date, feels like one long-drawn-out trip.

As strange as it was, though, it did provide us with unforgettable moments and events that will remain imprinted on our minds for years to come. We, here at SportsCafe, have listed out the ‘20 from 2020’ - 20 significant events which defined the year and could have a long-standing impact on the sport. 

A watershed moment for Women’s cricket

On March 8, 2020,  86,174 fans turned up to watch Australia take on India in the final of the Women’s World T20 at the MCG - the second-highest attendance recorded for any women’s sporting event anywhere in the world. The game, which Australia eventually won convincingly, registered a total of 1.78 billion viewing minutes, a figure 59 times more than the final of the previous edition in 2018, and, with it, the WT20 2020 became the most-watched women’s cricket event ever. It was the sign that Women’s cricket had not just arrived, but was ready to take over the world.  

The new normal

Bio-secure bubbles, mid-series roaming and commuting banned, extended player squads, fielders spending minutes in the stands searching for the ball, virtual press conferences, empty stands unless you’re Australia or New Zealand, fake crowd noises, fist-bumps replacing handshakes, and saliva equivalent to lava: players and fans were asked to acclimatize to the ‘new normal’ in the post-apocalyptic world. 

The BLM movement, positive gestures and the impact

The post-apocalyptic world in cricket kicked off with Michael Holding delivering one of the most powerful monologues in history, about racism, which was followed by the England and Windies players taking a knee to send out a strong message that the cricketing family was willing to come together as one to first address, and then kick-out racism. The message resonated loud and the universal movement gave several cricketers who were discriminated by the system the platform to tell their unheard story. It forced self-introspection and with it also came investigations that were long due. 

The anointing of James Anderson and Stuart Broad

For a decade James Anderson and Stuart Broad were forcefully - and rather unfairly - kept out of ‘great bowler’ conversations, but 2020 changed it all. One became just the fourth pacer to claim 500 and the other the first to conquer 600, but both had, by the end of the English summer, been rightfully put on a pedestal - only this time not just by the English press, but by the entire world. 

The year of Dawid Malan

“Selfish. Slow. Old. Misfit. Stat-padder.” Prior to 2020 Dawid Malan was not even respected, let alone recognized. Even after scores 54*, 66 and 42 in the home summer, and even after attaining the Number one ranking in T20Is, there were doubts and skepticism over his place in the team, ironically also from the man himself. It would only be a 99* in England’s last T20 of the year that would vindicate the southpaw and make him universally accepted. 2020 was the year where Dawid Malan failed in math, but succeeded in cricket.

R for Rahul Tewatia. R for Redemption

15 overs into RR’s chase versus KXIP in Sharjah, Rahul Tewatia, for a 30-minute period, was the most hated man on the internet. Sent out to bat at #4 to have a swing in RR’s quest to chase 224, he was batting on 8* off 19 balls. What would then follow would be the most remarkable, mind-numbing, heart-warming redemption story in cricket history. 6 6 6 6 0 6 6 and out. Tewatia had inflicted the most dramatic of turnarounds, which would then soon be known as ‘doing a Tewatia’.  RR won the match. Tewatia won the internet. 

The downfall of Chennai Super Kings

Even before making it to the field, Chennai Super Kings had to deal with a major Covid outbreak in the camp, and an alleged balcony-related quarrel which led to Suresh Raina storming out. As it turned out, their off-field struggles were miniscule in comparison to what they endured on the field. A 12-year dynasty fell in the most humiliating fashion imaginable, and the Yellows went from Kings to Laughing Stocks. 

19:29

Like 111, 87, 408, and 63* to name a few, 19:29 will also, from hereon, have a significance in the world of cricket. It was what the clock read, on August 15, when MS Dhoni, gearing up for the IPL, dropped the biggest bombshell in years: that he was retiring from international cricket. A one-year wait ended in the most anti-climactic fashion imaginable - through an Instagram post. 19:29 was the time when Dhoni publicly flexed that he was undecodable. 

The Double Super Over

As early as 15 days into the competition, the quality of IPL 2020 had touched unimaginable heights. Yet it was only in the 36th match, a month into the competition that the tournament peaked. Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians played the first double super-over in history. The wooden-spoon contenders who couldn’t buy a win and looked certain to have choked again after scoring just 5 in the Super Over, enforced a second thanks to Shami, and eventually won the match. Words will not do justice to the pandemonium that unfolded that night. Cricket peaked.

The return of Fawad Alam

After being unjustifiably and inexplicably ignored for a decade, 2020 had to happen for Fawad Alam to return to Test cricket. It was anything but a fairytale, though, as after a 3910-day hiatus, the southpaw registered a duck in his first knock back. Thankfully sport has the tendency to churn out tear-inducing redemption stories that provided closure. On the 4,188th day, Alam scored his second Test century, poetically in the very same country where, 11 years ago, he thought his career had ended.

The invincible Kiwis - at home, with the red-ball

It spoke volumes of New Zealand’s dominance at home in Test cricket that months after being humiliated in Australia, they whitewashed a full-strength Indian side at home. If there was ever any doubt that their home record was ‘flattering’ because they’d only dust aside small sides, this buried it. Now they are the number one Test side in the world, though with the ‘home bully’ cloud hanging over their heads. But then again, who isn’t? 

When Steve Smith found his ‘hands’

Steve Smith is a weird specimen, so no one knew what he meant when, prior to the India ODIs, he said he ‘found his hands’. Everyone realized what exactly he meant, though, after he struck back-to-back 60-ball centuries. How can anyone dare to score consecutive 60-ball hundreds? And that too by playing orthodox cricket? Maybe it’s just a weird-people-thing. 

South African cricket hits its nadir

An interminable losing streak, a team devoid of seniors and leaders which, at times, seemed like it had forgotten how to play cricket, multiple ex-players accusing big names of racism and favoritism, and a board so corrupt that it almost drove the country away from being eligible to play international cricket. 2020 was the year when South Africa turned into Zimbabwe. Almost.

Virat Kohli: So close, yet so far

2020 might have been a fruitful year for Virat Kohli outside of a cricket field, but on the field, it was unforgiving. The man who, for a decade, ate centuries for breakfast finished a calendar year without a ton for the first time in 12 years, though agonizingly coming close on many occasions. This ‘so close, yet so far’ haunted him in the IPL, too, where first his side finished 4th after threatening to make the top two, and then crashed out in the Eliminator after eyeing Qualifier 2. It was only fitting that his year ended that way after he and his men came so close to ending Australia’s pink-ball juggernaut. 

The summer of Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya became a father off the field in 2020, but also a leader on it. And no, he wasn’t faking it. He was his goofy self in the IPL but that shtick turned out to be a smokescreen for captain Pandya that turned up in the Australia tour. The people who doubted if he could be a specialist batsman in ODI cricket, by the end of the tour, were pleading with him to stay back and bat at No.6 in Tests. 

The Rohit Sharma saga

What started off as a harmless hamstring niggle escalated to the point where a section of fans were convinced that the BCCI were openly conspiring to isolate Rohit Sharma from the Indian cricket setup. There was an incomprehensible miscommunication to the point that it took a public admonishment from skipper Kohli for the BCCI to issue a responsible explanation. Things have settled down now, but do not assume that it’s over. Could you imagine the outrage - and conspiracy theories - should Rohit be benched after a 14-day quarantine? We don’t want to. 

The year that Steve Smith failed in Test cricket

At the end of Ashes 2019, the general consensus was that by 2021, Steve Smith would have stretched his average in Test cricket over 70. He hasn’t. It now stands at 61.33. If Kohli’s failure to amass a ton was puzzling, Smith’s outright failure to buy a run in whites was heartbreaking. He looked lost just as much as we did, for he, too, didn’t know what failure looked like. Here was a man who averaged over 70 in 6 of his first 9 years in Test cricket, staring at an average of 18.25 in 2020. 

Ravichandran Ashwin becomes the MVP of Cricket

Consider yourself forgiven if you, like many, thought the presence of Ravi Ashwin would wane away in 2020 and afterwards. He not only resurrected his career on the field, he also established one off-the-field. Until 2019 he was only the best off-spinner in the world, but now, to go along with that, he is also the best YouTuber, analyst, interviewer and storyteller. What more does he have in store?

Pace, pace, pace and more pace

2020 officially marked the year where fast bowlers brandished the cricket ball as if it were a weapon and sent out the message that they had taken the cricket world over. From Kyle Jamieson manhandling batsmen with his not-so-fast yet intimidating rockets to Anrich Nortje determined to break the stumps with as much force as he can to Navdeep Saini straight up willing to murder batters with his beamers to the other usual suspects bullying the men with the willow in hand in their own condescending way, pace ruled the roost, regardless of the format. Rest easy - not if you’re a batsman - knowing that it’s just a sign of things to come. 

3̶6̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ The Boxing Day miracle 

If you’d told the Indian players at the end of the Adelaide Test that they would end the year on a high, they probably would have thought, “oooh, alcohol.” How could an Indian team sans Kohli, Shami and Ishant, a team that got bundled out for 36, a team without any gung-ho personas, even dare to compete against a full-strength Australian team? Ajinkya Rahane showed how. You can’t erase unwanted history, but you can, however, overshadow it by making it look unimportant, by scripting something twice as powerful. And that’s what India did. The 36 was supposed to define their year, but it instead ended up adding context to a win that, like Ravi Shastri said, will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest ever. 

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