Cricket is such an awesome game. No sport has gained as much popularity as cricket in the last ten years. From being the 'Gentleman's Game' to the game played in the gullies of every country.
Cricket. I'm in love.
I didn't know what the hell cricket was in 1999, but suddenly the Pearly Gates of Earth opened up for me. I plunged into a new world which was enthralling and I was more than just enthralled. I was addicted.
If Twitter is to Tharoor, I was to cricket. Yes, WAS.
Things change and sometimes for the worse. It all began in 2007. That dreadful World Cup. Who would've thought my team would lose to Bangladesh and be thrown out unceremoniously from West Indies. That followed by the death of Bob Woolmer.
This seriously introduced some vague ideas about the sport in my mind. What was happening here?
I left cricket and became a commoner. I walked, talked and ate food.
Then something that revolutionised not only the way I saw cricket, but maybe the world: Twenty20.
I first thought that this was just a passing thing like the 'Super Cricket' or 'Max Cricket' or the 'Super Sub', but then came the announcement of the T20 World Cup. In my mind, failure was staring the organisers right in the face.
It had all the makings of a successful venture yet in my mind there were apprehensions. My 'feelings' were never wrong as Nostradamus was my next door neighbour. But he turned out to be wrong. Very wrong.
At first I thought, okay India were winning, how far would they go? Then that one match which changed my life. Yuvraj has never been the same since. And the crowd hasn't stopped screaming since.
Six sixes. Need I say more?
India clinched the World Cup thanks to a stunning effort by Misbah. Dhoni's long locks were now more valuable than the Queen's.
Since then, cricket has changed on its axis. The Indian Premier League, the T20 Champs league, the amazing 400 run chase, sledging, monkey business etc. Now cricket can be compared to movies. Fast and furious.
As the decade ended, India topped the test championship and cricket took a place in every ones hearts. All countries of the world are promoting cricket and I will not be surprised if we see a FIFA-like Cricket World Cup.
But that's not the point of this piece. I'm sorry, but hey, I've got to write a long article!
Every year players make their families proud by earning a cap for the national team. A few of these guys actually end up being remembered. I mean, does anybody remember Monde Zondeki? I don't!
The noughties, which I have no idea why its called, produced some fine players and even reincarnated or reinvigorated some brilliant performers.
Some great players left us and some new players destined for greatness joined us. Cricket is incomplete without them. Else, I would be captain of India.
Here is my list of ten players of each country who have contributed tremendously. I take only one per country because I'm a biased loser, you see?
Australia - The best team of the decade produced some awesome players but the player that will be among the elites has to be Ricky Ponting. Easily the second best batsman(after Sachin Tendulkar) today. I was tempted to put Shane Warne but he hasn't played for ten years, has he?
England - The toughest to decide. England has had an up and down decade and prodeced some quality players. But I think I'm gonna go with Andrew Flintoff. The big man was England's best performer in the last ten years and the 'Sir' title is imminent for him.
India - I would love to put Sachin Tendulkar's name here, but my heart says Rahul Dravid. The man has been overshadowed by the little man, and will make it to many people's All Time list. All you Sachin fanatics, I say this to you and myself, sorry.
New Zealand - No question of who comes here. Daniel Vettori has already stamped his recognition of best ever left arm spinner. The man is good enough to be the best bowler as well. Only time will tell.
Pakistan - Though, it hasn't been a great decade for Pakistani cricket, the players coming out of here have been legendary. I'm not going to put in Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis's name, as the played just for three and four years, respectively. So, I'm going to do the next best thing or rather next BIG thing. I'm gonna say Inzamam Ul Haq. The guy's stature brought the bowler to his knees. What more can I say?
South Africa - Another tough one. South Africa have been the most improved side and are on the brink of becoming World Champions. I considered quite a few players from Shaun Pollock to Graeme Smith to Mark Boucher(!), but I'm gonna settle with Jacques Kallis. All-rounders are a rare breed. Good all-rounders are extinct. Kallis was born due to some gene defect. I rate him higher than Sobers. But the world has ignored him and I'm surprised he hasn't cried yet.
Sri Lanka - Without any questions, Sri Lanka's best player has been Muttiah Muralitharan. He may not be at the top of his game right now but his wide eyes have managed to hypnotise more batsmen than the population of India.
West Indies - I don't think I have to comment on anything here. Brian Lara is one of the greatest batsmen to play the game. He would have been West Indies' best even if he retired in January 2000.
Bangladesh - I don't know many Bangladeshi players apart from Mohammed Ashraful and Habibul Bashar(is he alive?), but their best is their current captain Shakib Al Hasan . Vettori's successor in short.
Special mention for Andy Flower . Awesome player. That is all I remember of him.
2010 will be the start of a new era of cricket. One where the world will be watching. Three world cups, I believe six T20 World cups, 10 IPLs featuring more teams, and the end of the Sachin Age await us. Let the show begin.
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