Cricket Review 2008
A tour of Australia can be spicy especially if the opposition starts to give it back to the hosts. India found that out in 2008 in what was an acrimonious tour. There were many controversies with players being suspended, umpires being withdrawn and High Court Judges being called up to give verdicts and relationships between boards and countries were stained.  

The Boxing Day Test went without any incident with Australia recording a big 337 run win and India not able to post 200 runs in either innings. The highlight during the Test match was Sourav Ganguly featuring in 100 Test matches and Adam Gilchrist completing his 396th dismissal to go past Ian Healy, a record for Australia.

The second Test saw very poor umpiring standards. Andrew Symonds was caught behind on 30 but umpire Steve Bucknor gave him not out. Then with Symonds on 148, Bucknor didn’t refer a stumping appeal and the batter went on to post 162 not out. The same umpire gave Rahul Dravid caught behind when he hadn’t nicked. His colleague Michael Benson surprised a few when he consulted the Australian captain Ricky Ponting to check whether Michael Clarke had taken a catch of Sourav Ganguly cleanly instead of asking Bucknor. Australia won the Test but there was an official complaint from BCCI and Bucknor was removed from officiating further in the series.

Harbhajan Singh was also suspended for three games after Australia complained about the player directing a racial slur at Andrew Symonds. The incident known as ‘Monkey gate’ saw India appealing the decision of the Match Referee to ban Harbhajan. New Zealand High Court judge John Hansen was appointed for a formal hearing. The ban was revoked.

Indian captain Anil Kumble minced no words when he quoted the famous quote from the bodyline series. "Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say."

India bounced back to win the third Test in Perth and drew in Adelaide but lost the series.

By winning the Sydney Test, Australia equaled the record for winning the greatest number of Test matches. Steve Waugh’s side too had won 16 games in 2001.

During the third Test, Anil Kumble became the third bowler after Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan to claim 600 Test wickets.

West Indies created history by winning their first Test match in South Africa. Once West Indies put 408 runs on the board in the first innings in Port Elizabeth, South Africa were playing catch up.

West Indies took a huge 213 run lead in the first innings and although they made only 175 in the second innings, they were able to set up a target of 389 which proved to be beyond South Africa’s reach.

South Africa bounced back though. Dale Steyn picked up eight wickets in Cape Town and the four-pronged pace attack of Steyn, Pollock, Ntini and Nel proved to be too hot for the West Indies in Durban.

England recorded a come from behind series win in New Zealand with their seamers starring in the win.

Having lost the first Test in Hamilton, England bounced back in Wellington as James Anderson claimed five wickets to bowl out the Kiwis for 198 in the first innings and England went on to win by 126 runs.

Then in Napier, in the series decider, it was Ryan Sidebottom’s turn. The Yorkshireman’s seven wicket haul blew away the New Zealanders as they managed only 168 runs in the first innings and lost the Test by 121 runs.

Sidebottom had 24 wickets in three Tests and was named Player of the Series.

Sri Lanka created history this year with their maiden Test win in West Indies. A big total of 476 for eight declared was possible thanks to hundreds by Malinda Warnapura and Mahela Jayawardene.

Sri Lanka were able to take a 196 run first innings lead and declared again in their second innings at 240 for seven setting an improbable target of 437.

Left with a tall order to survive four sessions, West Indies did well to reach 96 for one at stumps on day four. They lost only one wicket in the first session on the final day and a draw was possible as they reached 170 for two at lunch.

Sri Lanka bounced back after lunch claiming four wickets in the afternoon session, but Chris Gayle proved to be a thorn in their flesh.

The West Indies captain had demoted himself to number six and made an uncharacteristic 51 not out batting for three and half hours.

The game looked to be slipping away from Sri Lanka’s hands and a draw was on the cards as there was stubborn resistance from Gayle. But he was running out of partners as Chaminda Vaas picked up a five-wicket haul to seal a famous win for the tourists.

Having lost in Guyana, West Indies bounced back in Trinidad in a low scoring thriller. Set a target of 253 to square the series, Ramnaresh Sarwan made a hundred to seal the deal for the hosts.

South Africa’s impressive run in India continued as they drew a three-match series 1-1.

Madras was a run fest with Virender Sehwag hammering 319, the first ever triple hundred scored in India.

South Africa batting first had made 540, a total good enough to put pressure on the opposition. But Sehwag is someone who doesn’t know what pressure is. He hammered 319 in 304 deliveries with 42 hits to the rope and five over it.

Rahul Dravid chipped in too with a century and at one point India were 481 for one. They went on to make 627 all out and this turned out to be a high scoring draw.

The first Test was hardly an indication of what was to follow in Ahmedabad in the second Test. India were blown out for 76 runs in the first innings, their second lowest total in Test match cricket at home.

The innings lasted just 20 overs as Dale Steyn was on fire picking up five wickets in a fiery spell. Only two Indians managed double figures as the top five batters were dismissed for single digit scores. Steyn was so quick that four of the batters that he dismissed were either bowled or trapped leg before wicket.

South Africa batted India out of the game posting 494 for seven declared. A 256-run stand for the fifth wicket saw Jacques Kallis making a hundred and A.B. de Villiers going on to post a double hundred.

India lost the contest by an innings and 90 runs.

South Africa met their match on a rank turner in Kanpur as India salvaged some pride with an eight wicket win as Harbhajan Singh picked up seven wickets.

The English summered started well for Michael Vaughan’s side as they beat New Zealand 2-0, but soon things were slipping away from them when South Africa arrived for the latter part of the summer.

With South Africa taking an unassailable 2-0 lead at Edgbaston, Vaughan stepped down as captain to mark an end of an era.

Vaughan had become the first English captain in a generation to win the Ashes in 2005 and his five-year reign that started in 2003 ended rather disappointingly.

England actually started off the series well posting 593 for eight declared at Lord’s and then made South Africa follow on but the tourists drew the Test. The highlight of the game was Ian Bell being dismissed for 199. He tried to take on the harmless left-arm spin of Paul Harris but ended up offering a return catch.

South Africa won at Headingley and Edgbaston to secure the series and England under new captain Kevin Pietersen recorded a consolation win at The Oval, in the final Test. Pietersen finished the series with 421 runs in seven innings.

India toured Sri Lanka and suffered a shock series defeat as they failed to counter mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis. On debut, Mendis claimed 26 wickets to break Sir Alec Bedser’s record for most wickets in a debut series, a milestone that had stood for more than 50 years.

The famous Indian batting line-up was expected to fare much better but the big four – Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly had no clue.

Mendis had stunned the Indians in the Asia Cup final a few weeks back in Pakistan claiming six for 13 and it seemed that the scars of that humiliating defeat remained with them for a while.

India made amends though later that year when Australia and England toured with series wins against them.

This year also marked the introduction of Decision Review System. Players could challenge umpiring decisions with the help of technology. The move was introduced by the ICC to avoid umpiring errors.

There were some big retirements in international cricket with Adam Gilchrist and Anil Kumble quitting.

This was also the year where the Indian Premier League was launched and big business entities in India owned by the likes of Mukesh Ambani, N. Srinivasan, and Vijay Mallya entered the fray.

There was glamour as well in the IPL with Bollywood stars coming in. Cricket’s popularity was soaring and players’ salaries went through the roof.

Rajasthan Royals did not spend big during the inaugural auction but they picked Shane Warne as their captain. The leg-spinning wizard, already retired from international cricket, was always thinking out of the box and skippered a team of not many fancied players to the inaugural title. That is why they say that Warne was the best captain that Australia never had.