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India emerge as cricketing superpower in 2008

cricket Updated: Dec 25, 2008 15:14 IST
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India emerged as the cricketing world's new superpower in 2008 making top-ranked Australia bite the dust while also exhibiting its financial might with the launch of the highly successful Indian Premier League which revolutionised the sport.

The year also marked the end of an era with Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble bidding adieu to international cricket even as 35-year-old Sachin Tendulkar continued to sore high, making it clear he had no plans to retire in the near future.

As Ganguly and Kumble made an exit, a new era heralded in Indian cricket under the charasmatic captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni who cleverly camouflaged the vacuum created by the departure of the two veterans and led the team to a series of triumphs during the year.

After India defeated the mighty Australia at Perth, the Dhoni-led team inflicted more humiliation on Ricky Ponting's men by defeating them 2-0 at home.

It was Australia's worst series loss since a 3-0 setback against the West Indies in 1983. As India prevented Australia from a record 17-match winning run for the second time, the signs were clear that the balance of power was finally shifting away from Ponting's men.

India also humbled South Africa and England in the year which proved to be annus mirabilis for the team.

India, placed second in the ICC Test rankings, and South Africa, just a point adrift on third, are now in race to topple Australia from the number one slot. Australia, struggling in the post-Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath era, failed to prevent South Africa from completing the second-highest successful fourth-innings run chase in Test history.

Apart from their heroics on the field, the Indians also found themselves in various controversies such as the racial row involving Indian off spinner and Australian all rounder Andrew Symonds who clashed in the acrimonious Sydney Test.

Harbhajan was charged with racially abusing Symonds for which he was slapped with a three-Test ban, which was overturned on appeal. Harbhajan got off with just 50 per cent of his match fees as India threatened to go home unless they received a satisfactory verdict.

The bitterness was, however, forgotten as Symonds fetched the second highest bid after Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the players auction for the year's biggest cricketing extravaganza -- the Indian Premier League.

The IPL was the most significant development in the sport since Kerry Packers World Series of 1970s as US $43.54 million auction took place that finally placed cricket alongside the big-money sports of the world.

The sport which was struggling to draw big crowds was revived with the culture of clubs, Bollywood and cheerleaders and spectators returned to stadiums while millions others relished the excitement through televisions at prime time slot.

The Twenty20 league captured the imagination of cricket fans so much so that purists feared it would ruin the future of Test cricket, which indeed witnessed low crowd, making even the International Cricket Council sit up and take note of the fact.