Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 - a Ratings year in review

As we move out of 2009, let’s look back on the Ratings year and discover who were the biggest movers and shakers over the course of the twelve months of international cricket just completed.

In the Test arena, not a single batsman managed to break the elusive 900 point barrier. This is a far cry from 2008 when five different batsmen achieved the feat. It was very much chop and change in the top spot too as incredibly seven different batsman were ranked number one at various stages of the year. Shiv Chanderpaul began 2009 in pole position, but he was usurped by the returning Mohammad Yousuf. Younus Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Clarke and Mahela Jayawardena all enjoyed brief spells of looking down at the rest of the batting world. However, no-one bettered Chanderpaul’s tally of 892 points achieved during the West Indies home series with England in February.

Two individual performances share the honour of being the highest-rated innings by the computer over the year. First up was Younus Khan with his 313 against Sri Lanka at Karachi in February. And it was the Sri Lankan bowlers who also conceded Virender Sehwag’s 293 at Mumbai last month. The bronze medal goes to Mahela Jayawardena for his 275 against India at Ahmedabad.

With the ball, could 2009 be remembered as the year when Muttiah Muralitharan began to look mortal? Having started the year on 897 points, he only took 26 wickets in his eight Tests at an average of 45.96 to end the year on 752 – his lowest points total since March 1998. Dale Steyn took advantage of Murali’s fall to take over top spot in July and has remained there ever since.

Performance-wise, there is a surprise name on top of the list. In a country not known for its spinning pedigree, Paul Harris turned in a memorable nine for 161 against Australia at Cape Town this March to lead them to an innings victory. Next up is Jerome Taylor who devastated England’s second innings at Kingston to the tune of 5-11. In third place is England’s swinger James Anderson who took nine wickets as the West Indians couldn’t cope with the cold early May conditions at Chester-le-Street. Special mention must go to Graeme Swann whose efforts at The Oval and Durban were both ranked in the top ten and enabled him to rise to the giddy heights of third place at the end of the year.

In the shorter format of the game, two batsmen crossed the 800-point barrier during the course of the year. MS Dhoni was top of the batting tree for the vast majority of the year, topping out at 837 points in October. And it was Mike Hussey who was the other – peaking at 813 against South Africa back in April. It was slim pickings in terms of bowlers in 2009 as the highest points total was just 766 – by Daniel Vettori – and that came early in the year too. The next-highest total was Nathan Bracken’s 745.

Charles Coventry’s record-equalling unbeaten innings of 194 for Zimbabwe against Bangladesh in Bulawayo in August was the highest-rated One Day International innings of the year. The runner-up was Brendon McCullum’s 131 from 129 balls against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Tillekeratne Dilshan was the bronze medallist for his unbeaten 137 also against Pakistan in Lahore.

A number of bowlers took turns to lead the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers over the course of the year. Nathan Bracken started the year in top spot and two Kiwis had the honour - Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills. Nuwan Kulasekara spent March to September as world number one, and Shakib al Hasan was top for just a day - from 5-6 November.

Bowling-wise, it is an Englishman who provided the highest-rated performance of the year. James Anderson’s 5-23 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth routed them for just 119 and set up a seven-wicket triumph. Next is Daniel Vettori who took 4-20 in his ten overs as New Zealand bowled the West Indies out for just 128 at Wellington in January. In third place comes Shane Bond who devastated England’s top order in the Champions Trophy match at the Wanderers to take 3-21 and lead the Kiwis to a four-wicket victory.

In terms of all-rounders, in the Test rankings Jacques Kallis continued his dominance at the top, as he maintained the number one position he has occupied continuously since May 2006 and for the vast majority of the 2000s. In the shorter form of the game, New Zealand’s Jacob Oram started the year in top spot. However, after scoring an unbeaten 33 and taking 3-15 against Zimbabwe in Dhaka on 23 January, Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hasan took over top spot and has held it ever since.

Next time, we’ll look at the 2000s as a whole and see which players made the biggest impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings over the course of the decade.