Cape Cobras v Warriors at Paarl, SuperSport Series

Writing a proper “Year in Review” is the ultimate aim of my current four day weekend, of which I am only on day one.

Of course, such a post is a rather daunting affair.  Even the best cricket writers on the Internet are keeping the scopes of their reviews limited:  writing about one aspect of the game such as the rebirth of test cricket (was it ever really dead?), the emergence of a dozen new test quick bowlers, using picture slideshows, or simply discussing their best XI of 2011.

For me, in 2011, there were several highlights.

The ultimate personal cricketing highlight was of course starting this blog.  As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, writing this blog has been a real joy, and I am infinitely happy that I started it on an absolute whim right after the world cup.

Because of this blog, and because of the community of bloggers and twitterers that I sought out (great post here from The Sightscreen on social media and cricket), I have far deeper understanding of this wonderful sport, and I love the game more now than I ever thought possible.

To everyone that read, that commented, that hung out with me on Twitter: thank you. This has been a freaking terrible year, personally, but this blog has been a real light in an otherwise dark 12 months.

Also, for me, another highlight was the acquisition of Willow.tv.   Up until May of this year, I “watched” all of my cricket using Cricinfo’s (excellent) ball by ball coverage.  I would even opine to those that would listen that cricket is the rare sport that can be enjoyed via only text, that images are not necessary for the experience.  Boy was I wrong.

Watching the first few matches of the England v Sri Lanka series changed everything for me.  I learned that cricket is not just stats; it is atmosphere, and rage, and plot-lines.   It is Kumar Sangakkara and James Anderson.  Real people, real heroes, real villains, not a series of ones and zeroes.

While the above is obvious to most, and I while I understood it intellectually before subscribing to Willow.tv, it really was quite a revolution for my cricket enjoying experience.

Also, a shout out to ESPN3 for increasing their cricket coverage and giving me the chance to watch my favorite test playing minnows, Bangladesh.

Next up:  Attend an actual match.

On the pitch in 2011?  Gah, an almost overwhelming amount of wonderful cricket. There was the conclusion of the Ashes in January, followed by the wildly spectacular World Cup in India, followed by a lackluster IPL.

And then it was summer, with England and India battling for number one test nation status, and another great summer in the County Championship, and there was Zimbabwe’s return to hosting test matches.

The fall and winter brought us simply fantastic test matches, in Johannesburg, in Hobart, in Melbourne, in Durban….

Highlights for me include the World Cup final, course, but the World Cup semi-final was equally as memorable, as was Ireland’s defeat of England.

The 2000th test match at Lord’s was another highlight (remember that queue on the fifth day?), as was the second test between Australia and  New Zealand.

Individually? I loved watching Dravid bat throughout the England series, and watching Zaheer just recently in Australia was eye opening for sure. Two very different personalities, but both game changers of the highest order.

Cook’s 294 at Edgbaston thrilled, as did Sangakkara’s double century in Abu Dhabi.

So many wonderful matches, so many wonderful performances.  What a year for tests, what a year for India, what a year for England (6-0-1)…what a year for cricket.

Finally, on the pitch, big ups for Sri Lanka and their famous win yesterday in Durban.  A wonderful story.  As someone tweeted, the cricket world is better with Sri Lanka in it.

Off the pitch, with a couple of exceptions, the news was not as good.  There was the ICC’s seeming disregard for the Associate Nations, first eliminating their spots from the 2015 World Cup, then putting them back, then decreasing their spots in the T20 cup down to two. Two!?

There was the spot fixing trial, of course, and far too many two test series.  And there was DRS controversy after DRS controversy after DRS controversy.  (I am very pro-technology in sport, but I even think it is best if the ICC throws the whole machine out of the window and starts again fresh.)

And there was England’s ugly behavior behind the scenes after the “run out that wasn’t.”

The last event segues nicely into some of cricket’s highlights off of the pitch: Dhoni did the right thing by letting Bell come out again. And there were the two speeches from Sangakkara and Dravid.  Even if you disagree with every word they said, the fact that current players stand up in front of their peers and make eloquent speeches on the state of the game is something worth celebrating.

Finally, off the pitch, there was The Two Chucks.  A true highlight for me, for sure.

And that, in a nutshell, was 2011.  A great year, overall, I think.  Though, personally, I am more than ready to bid it good riddance and welcome in 2012.

And on that note: tomorrow (or maybe Sunday): a proper 2012 preview.  Cricket, like humanity, needs to look the future more, starting now.

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