Cricket in 2020 could’ve been poorer without some really outstanding performances that gave us much to remember.
Was that ever going to be any easy?
Well, lest it is forgotten that 2020 was marred by the pandemic, of a severe kind that’s probably impacted modern history in a brutal way quite like the world wars did.
Also, over the last few years, cricket has been evolving at a rapid rate. In fact, the games for multiple teams come thick and fast and the turnaround time between games and series/tournament has constantly been on the decline.
But, well cricket in 2020 was different.
It has been a year that has wreaked havoc all across the globe. Everything, including was affected. In fact, this year is going to be only the second such year since the start of the 21stcentury in which the total number of international games played in a calendar year have been less than 175. The only other year which had lesser number of international games was 2005 (159).
Despite that, there has been no dearth of talent going around the cricketing circuit. There were a few players who took this year by storm and stamped their name on to it. Here are a few names that rocked the cricketing world in 2020. These are not the usual the Virat Kohlis, the Steve Smiths, the Kane Williamsons, the Joe Roots, the Babar Azams and such players. These are the ones that came around recently and made a mark this year to show the world that they belong at the international level and are here to stay.
There is absolutely no doubt that Kyle Jamieson has been one of the biggest stars to emerge out of 2020. If there was a best debutant award for the year 2020, Kyle Jamieson would surely be one of the front-runners for it. There is barely anything he did not do. Starting right from his debut till date, the tall lanky fast bowler from Auckland showed the world that he is ready for international cricket and its challenges. He had a dream debut against India and he has carried that form into the 2020-21 home season.
Jamieson’s international career started off in ODI cricket as he made his debut against India in the second of the three-match ODI series. He scored 25 not out which helped New Zealand get to 274 before scalping two wickets with the ball to guide the Kiwis to a series win.
A Test debut followed soon after as Neil Wagner was on paternity leave. And his first two wickets in Test cricket read Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. In just his second Test match, Jamieson picked up a fifer. In fact, in that series, every time New Zealand were in trouble, it was Jamieson who bailed them out. He had scores of 44 and 49 in the two innings he batted.
The pandemic forced the world go to a standstill but when cricket resumed, Kyle Jamieson continued his impressive run. Against the touring West Indies side, he picked up 11 wickets in two Test matches and also scored 71 runs, including his maiden international half-century. That performance ensured that the 25-year-old won his maiden Man of the Series award which was backed up by 32 and five wickets in the first Test against Pakistan.
Overall, in five Test matches, the Auckland-born cricketer has amassed 196 runs and has taken 25 wickets at a bowling average of 14.44 and a bowling strike-rate of 38.2.
Yes, one could argue that Jermaine Blackwood isn’t someone new on the international circuit. In fact, it’s been more than six years since he made his Test debut. He was even a regular member of the West Indies Test side. However, things changed and he was axed on the back of poor form. And it is 2020 that has brought him back on track. In fact, it is a year that has seen a new version of Jermaine Blackwood emerge from the dumps.
The Jamaican batsman showed that there is a lot more to him that just blasting it out in the middle-order and he is just not a slam-bang player who comes and goes like a breeze. It was in his very first Test match that resumed cricket post the lockdown that Blackwood made a mark and made the world sit up and take notice. Chasing 200 on a tricky pitch with West Indies in trouble and against a quality England attack, Blackwood smashed a fine 95 to take his side home and register a famous win. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.
In 2020, he has had just two innings where he has ended up with scores below 20. The sample size maybe just 10 innings but his past record says, it was way more often. From 49 Test innings prior to 2020, Blackwood ended up with a sub-20 score as many as 27 times i.e., that’s almost once every two innings.
That 95 was just not a flash in the pan or once in a while knock. Blackwood had shrugged off those inconsistencies. He consistently got good scores and there have often been times when he has run out of partners at the other end which has forced him to do things. He smashed a very good second innings hundred against New Zealand a few weeks back and followed that up with a fluent 69 in the second essay.
Thus, overall, the 29-year-old Jamaican amassed 427 runs at an average of 42.70.
For years now, India haven’t had a left-arm fast bowler who has stuck around and has been a constant figure in the side. Since the likes of Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan, there have been very few left-arm pacers who have played for India. Jaydev Unadkat, Khaleel Ahmed, Barinder Sran and Sreenath Aravind were the only ones to have donned the India blue in the last 7-8 years. Ashish Nehra did make a comeback and stuck around for a couple of years in the shortest format but that wasn’t for long.
However, India unearthed one in 2020 and that man showed that there is hope. He may well be here to stay. It was in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 that T Natarajan gained the spotlight. He has been around the domestic scene for a few years now and has been a consistent performer in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). But he got his chance this year and he grabbed it with both hands.
Natarajan impressed everyone with his death bowling skills in the IPL and produced a solid show. The left-arm pacer took 16 wickets and grabbed everyone’s attention and forced them to look at him. A stellar show resulted in Natarajan being picked as a net bowler for India’s tour of Australia. But slowly with injuries, he first found himself in the ODI squad and then the T20I squad.
He made his debut in the third ODI against Australia in Canberra and shared the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah. The Salem-born gave India their first breakthrough before scalping a second in the death overs. Glenn Maxwell did tear him apart in one over but apart from that, Natarajan showed a lot of character and came back strongly. In the T20I series, he was mighty impressive once again as he took six wickets from three games at an economy of 6.91. Skipper Virat Kohli consistently trusted him to bowl the difficult overs and Natarajan responded really well.
Moreover, it wasn’t all about the yorker and death bowling for Natarajan. He showed that he has different skills and can use them effectively. Thus, here is an Indian left-arm fast bowler that has shown some great promise.
England’s top-order in Test cricket has been a mess for quite a while now. There were merry-go-rounds for the top three spots but over the last year or so, it has taken decent shape and there has been quite a bit of promise. Zak Crawley has been a part of that top three for the better part of the last 12 months.
When he was called up in the England Test squad that toured New Zealand late last year, Crawley didn’t have huge numbers. He was the leading run-getter for Kent in the 2019 County season where he had amassed 820 runs at an average of 34.16 which included two hundreds and five fifties. Moreover, he didn’t have a great debut as he was dismissed for just one.
But 2020 changed fortunes for him. He travelled to South Africa following that and with Rory Burns ruled out with injury, Crawley got his chance to open the batting. He was quite impressive as he got better as the series progressed and barring the first innings of the second Test, he went past the 20-run mark each time.
After aggregating 163 runs in five innings in South Africa, Crawley was named in the starting XI of the first Test at home in 2020. He batted at No. 3 in the first couple of Test matches against West Indies and scored 76 in the second innings of the first Test. He had three failures apart from that knock of 76 and with England opting to play five bowlers as Ben Stokes wasn’t fit to bowl, the Kent lad was benched. He missed a couple of Test matches but when Stokes flew to New Zealand to be with his ill father, Crawley got another opportunity and this time he knocked the door down.
The 22-year-old hit a morale-boosting half-century in the second Test against Pakistan which was largely rained off and backed that up with a mammoth 267 in the third Test. Crawley showcased his ability to bat long and bat big. Thus, there is no doubt that the innings against Pakistan will prove to be a coming-of-age knock for Crawley and he has shown that he is here to stay and should be a regular fixture in the England Test side.
Devon Conway is one name that has made a lot of noise in the cricketing circles in the recent past. He has been producing some massive performances in domestic cricket and seems to have broken down the selection door.
Conway is a South African-born but he moved to New Zealand a few years back and earlier this year, he became eligible to represent New Zealand. He has a splendid record with the bat in all three formats in domestic cricket. He averages in excess of 40 in each of the three formats and has been a consistent performer in the Plunket Shield, Ford Trophy and Super Smash tournaments in New Zealand.
In the 2020-21 home season, Conway made his international debut in the T20I series against West Indies and he has been a part of the side since then. He has played six T20Is and has smashed 174 runs at an average of 58.00 and has already hit a couple of half-centuries. Moreover, he has a strike-rate of 151.3. He was also added to the Test squad as a batting cover for Kane Williamson and BJ Watling. Thus, we might hear about Devon Conway and his exploits a lot in the coming years.
Australia have been in search of an all-rounder who can bat at No. 6 in Test cricket and be equally effective in the shorter formats for quite some time now. While there is Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh around, they haven’t been as consistent as the Aussies would’ve liked. Hence, the arrival of Cameron Green has created a lot of excitement. He is making all the right noise in domestic cricket and for Australia ‘A’.
The pace-bowling all-rounder has played just one ODI and a couple of Test matches so far but he has shown the pedigree to survive at the highest level. He made his ODI debut against India in the third ODI and featured in the starting XI of the first two Test matches in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Green may not have picked up wickets but the tall fast bowler has looked nippy with the ball and has troubled the Indian batsmen with some pace and bounce. With the bat, he looked solid and has thrown away a couple of decent starts. In fact, he made 45 in the second innings of the second Test which help Australia fight hard. Thus, he could well be Australia’s long-term solution for No. 6.