2012 has finally arrived. A new year signifies a new beginning and this is no different for players. They want to make a name for themselves by consistent performances for their respective nations. And with 2011 being one of the rare years where there was a presence of so many debutants, 2012 is expected to be a marquee year for them. There are ten such players who are more than capable of making an impact in the game in the next twelve months.
1) Nathan Lyon (Australia)
The Australian offie was born on November 20, 1987 in New South Wales in a town called Young. Lyon was initially a curator and his work took him from Young to the capital Canberra to Adelaide, the den of the Don (Sir Donald Bradman). He worked in the Adelaide ground staff in the 2006 Ashes series but five years later, and his rise was so high like an eagle flying that he made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in Galle. His bowling talent was first spotted by the South Australian T-20 coach Darren Berry.
His strength is his fearlessness to flight the ball and that makes an attacking wicket-taking bowler which is exactly what Australia needed after Shane Warne’s retirement. In his first ball of Test cricket, he famously picked the wicket of the legendary Kumar Sangakkara making him forcefully play a shot to a ball turning fractionally outside off stump. In that innings, Lyon went on to pick five wickets as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 105, setting the foundation for a huge Australian win.
He has so far played only 9 Tests for his country and has picked 24 wickets. It is a considerably low number but it has to be taken into account that pitches in South Africa and Australia do not have much assistance for spinners and these are still early days for him. Australia have tried out 11 spinners since Warne and have not yet succeeded to solve this problem. But Lyon could be the solution if they persist with him, which is likely after having glimpses of Michael Clarke’s captaincy so far and the new Australian selection panel.
2) James Pattinson (Australia)
James Pattinson is a Melbourne boy born on May 3, 1990. He was earlier known as the brother of Darren Pattinson, who went on to make his debut for England in a Test match against South Africa in 2008. Yet James was given a Cricket Australia central contract after having played only six first-class matches and was provisionally picked for the tour of Sri Lanka in 2011.
But his abilities were first seen in the ODI format when in 2009, his swing got him the best bowling figures in Australian domestic cricket, i.e, 6 for 48 which was against New South Wales playing for Victoria. His consistent performances also caught the eye of the Kolkata Knight Riders team management in the IPL and was auctioned for $100000 in the beginning of 2011 and that was the first time a few Indian fans might have heard his name.
After a disastrous World Cup 2011 for Australia, Pattinson was called up to make his international debut in a 3 match ODI series in Bangladesh and showed a lot of promise, although Bangladesh as an opposition does not pose much of a challenge to teams like Australia. A few months later, and he made his Test debut against archrivals New Zealand at Brisbane in the first Test of the 2011 Australian summer and helped it begin in fine fashion with a 5-wkt haul in the second innings, which made Australia win by 9 wickets.
In just 4 Test matches, he has picked 25 wickets which is easily a record by any bowler in the longest format of the game. To trouble the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, and the evergreen trio of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman being a newbie is an outstanding achievement and goes to show the immense talent he possesses. India will breathe a sigh of relief, now that he is injured!
Batting-wise too, ‘Patto’ has a decent technique and he could develop into a potential bowling all-rounder for Australia in the future. The only impediment in the path of excellence for him is perhaps the IPL and the rigours of the T-20 formats as a whole.
3) Patrick Cummins (Australia)
‘Cummo’ as he is affectionately called, is just 18 years old but has taken the world by storm. He was born on May 8, 1993 in Sydney, the capital of the proud state of New South Wales (NSW). NSW has produced several great cricketers over the years, which is shown by their outstanding Sheffield Shield record and Cummins could be added in that list as he does possess an extremely bright future.
He made his debut for NSW in 2010-11 season and impressed instantly with some nerveless performances in the Big Bash, eventually ending as the highest wicket taker of the tournament, with 11 wickets at as low an economy rate as 6.59, which is superb for T-20s. Indian fans got to see more of him in the Champions League 2011 for New South Wales where he was impressive, despite unhelpful conditions.
His raw pace made him the youngest Aussie cricketer ever to earn a central Cricket Australia contract in mid-2011 and that permitted him to hop on to the plane to South Africa, where he made his T-20, ODI and Test debuts respectively. He performed reasonably well in the ODIs and T-20 but he caught the eyes of the cricketing globe in the Johannesburg Test match when he picked 6/79 in the second innings against South Africa with the wicket of Jacques Kallis reminding many of a breathtaking spell the young Ishant Sharma bowled to Ricky Ponting at Perth. Cummins’ first Test wicket was that of Hashim Amla, not bad for an 18-year ‘rookie’ bowler!
Australia won the Jo’burg Test by 2 wickets in what was a cliffhanger but it could have gone in South Africa’s favour if it was not for Cummins scoring 13 valuable runs and remaining unbeaten till the end. His cool-headedness was appreciated by many, especially the fans who expected to watch a fine day of Test cricket.
Like Pattinson, Cummins too has to be managed extremely well as he is also injured at the moment and is unlikely to play in the next few months for Australia. However, it will be thrilling to see Cummins and Pattinson sharing the new ball for the country, especially in Tests and they could form one of the finest new-ball partnerships, alongside the likes of Thomson and Lillee as well as Hughes and McDermott.
4) Ed Cowan (Australia)
Ed Cowan is another man who was not required by New South Wales since they already possess a dearth of cricketers. Born in a place called Paddington on June 16, 1982, Cowan made his first rapid stride in the game with a move south, to Tasmania in the 2008-09 domestic season. That move paid off drastically as he scored prolifically, i.e, 957 runs at an average of 53.16 not having missed a single game for Tasmania then.
Three years later, and Cowan yet again hit a purple patch which saw him get a place in the starting XI for the Boxing Day against India, even as he was helped by Phillip Hughes’ poor form and an injury to Shane Watson. He scored a promising 68 in the first innings and that was the top score in Australia’s 333 and it was vital in allowing Australia to take a first-innings lead of 51, eventually which won them the Test match. He seems to be relaxed when he is batting, and in this aspect he reminds many of Simon Katich with Katich himself agreeing that Cowan is likely to be his successor as Australia’s Test opener in the future, despite being only 2 Tests old.
Ed Cowan is also said to be one of the rare intellectuals in the game, as seen with his thoughts on Twitter and his articles for websites. His interests apart from cricket and writing are in the field of finance, having previously worked in an investment bank. So he seems to enjoy his game and lead a more or less satisfied life, and these are good signs for Australia who are in this tough period of transition still.
5) Umesh Yadav (India)
The Vidarbha pacer was born on October 25, 1987 at the time when India was defending the World Cup in the sub-continent. Yet, a few would have ever thought that he would eventually become a cricketer, let alone a popular one mainly since his father is a coal-mine worker. At 19, he was only considering to play cricket as his aim was to become a policeman.
His steep rise is commendable considering that Vidharbha is one of the failed teams in Ranji Trophy history. His debut season in 2008-09 saw him pick 20 wickets in four games for his home side and as he continued with his good performances, the Delhi Daredevils signed him for the IPL in 2010 and that is where he made more people applaud. That made Delhi buy him back again in the 2011 auction and is likely to feature in the team for a long period of time.
He used the IPL to burst on to the international scene first in May 2010 when he made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo. He could not still cement his spot in the Indian team until 2011 when he was playing in the starting XI in the first Test of the series against the West Indies at home, with incidentally Delhi being the ground he made his debut in. Now, he is likely to be the second fast bowler India will play in Tests, in case Zaheer gets injured or Ishant strikes a bad patch while in ODIS and T-20s, he has become a favourite to play.
His balls above 140 km/hr and his seam movement, not to mention his bouncers should hopefully be seen at a greater frequency in 2012 and he could be India’s answer to their fast bowling woes.
6) Darren Bravo (West Indies)
The younger brother of West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, Darren was born in Trinidad on February 6, 1989. His batting is not only reminiscent but almost identical of that of ‘The Prince’ Brian Lara.
Bravo is an extremely talented left-hand batsman with the same style of walking, the same backlift, the same flourish, the same footwork, and above all the same mannerisms which is evident in the leap he takes after scoring a century. He is a living example of the saying ‘Imitation is the best form of flattery’. In fact, Darren used to watch cricket as a child only for Lara who also incidentally hails from Trinidad and Tobago. The moment he was dismissed, the television set was promptly switched off.
He was without a home, i.e a century for a short period of 9 Tests, 31 ODIs and 4 T-20s. Though he is predominantly a stroke-relying player, it is indeed a shock that his first hundred came in a Test match and that too against Bangladesh in 2011. Ironically, he is more relaxed when he was batting in Test matches unlike batsmen these days who revel more in the shorter formats of the game.
A fine run in Test matches in India, saw his run aggregate and average being identical to Lara’s after 12 Test matches. He is capable of achieving much more but to guide a wrecking ship, i.e a weak West Indies side in turbulent times is a mountainous task, and that will Bravo’s biggest challenge starting this year.
7) Vernon Philander (South Africa)
He was born in a town called Belville on June 24, 1985 but rose in the ranks to be qualified enough to turn out for the Cape Cobras, in the South African domestic competition making Cape Town his home ground when it comes to cricket.
Philander had all the makings of a great all-rounder when he had a top-class season for the Cobras in 2006-07, averaging 72 with the bat and 30 with the ball. He was considered to don the national colours in the summer of 2007 until he suffered from a stress fracture in his back. But it was in 2011 that he ended as the fourth highest wicket taker in domestic cricket and was ultimately rewarded with a Test cap against Australia in Cape Town a few months ago.
He was selected ahead of left-armer Lonwano Tsotsobe.to play in his home ground and he justified the faith the South African selectors had in him and his hard work over the years. Graeme Smith made him share the new ball with the numero uno Dale Steyn, instead of Morne Morkel. And the move worked, even more in the second innings.
Philander was the chief architect of Australia’s stunning second innings collapse as the visitors were bowled out for 47, and the wicket of Ricky Ponting was a joy for most of the South African fans to watch that day as he was spot-on in his line and length when it came to bowling to him especially. He ended with figures of 5/15, indeed staggering on Test debut! In the following, Test at Johannesburg, he again took a 5-wicket haul in the second innings and could have led South Africa to the victory post though unfortunately he did not.
His bowling seems to be even more threatening and he proved that his performances against Australia were not a fluke. Against Sri Lanka in the first Test match at Centurion a few weeks ago, he took 10 wickets in the match making it four 5-wicket hauls in five innings. He missed the Durban Test due to an injury but came back impressively at Cape Town yet again, with 6 wickets in the game. His tally is 30 wickets in just a span of four Tests, something which even the likes of Pollock or Steyn did not achieve. 2012 could be his year as South Africa continues their quest to gain the World No.1 spot in Tests.
8) Doug Bracewell (New Zealand)
Doug Bracewell was born on September 28, 1990 in a place called Tauranga at the Bay of Plenty. In New Zealand though, there is scarce talent so it perhaps has not been that hard for him to show his skills at the domestic level at a tender age of 18 for Central Districts. He was also a part of the U-19 World Cup team in 2010.
The New Zealand selectors considered him good enough to make his international debut on the tour of Zimbabwe in 2011. He picked up four wickets in the two Twenty20 internationals held there and three in his first two ODIs, impressing with his pace in particular. A handful of injuries in the New Zealand squad led to making him play his first Test in Bulawayo, and he took six wickets in that game to make a lightning fast impact. But his moment in the sun was in the Hobart Test match against Australia recently when he picked match figures of 9/60, helping New Zealand clinch a cliff-hanger out of nowhere, by 7 runs and it also meant that New Zealand beat their Trans-Tasman archrivals for the first time in a Test match since 1993 and in Australia since 1985. The Hobart performance reinforced the feeling that Bracewell could be a huge icon in New Zealand’s bowling arsenal not just in 2012 but for years to come. However, for that consistent performances irrespective of the conditions are a must.
9) Dean Brownlie (New Zealand)
His story is a once-in-a-lifetime one in New Zealand cricket. It is because essentially he is a half-Kiwi and half-Australian, born at Perth on July 30, 1984. Unlike Bracewell, Brownlie received his opportunities late in domestic cricket having made his first class debut for Canterbury in the 2010-11 season.
His inaugural season was impressive as he managed to score 918 runs at an average of 48.31. He made his first appearance in national colours in a T-20 international against Pakistan in late 2010 but still had to fight it out hard in the last 12 months to get a Test match call-up. He eventually did, on the tour of Zimbabwe alongside Bracewell, where he got his Test cap from the legendary Chris Harris in Bulawayo.
He seems to be a promising prospect after a mature showing in Australia. He used his experience in those conditions to have done well there. An unbeaten 77 in extremely tricky batting conditions at The Gabba helped New Zealand reach 250, which was unlikely at one stage. His match aggregate was 119 runs as he top-scored with another sedate 42 in the second innings. Another fifty followed at Hobart in the first innings even as New Zealand succumbed for 150.
These innings have shown that Brownlie is here to stay in Tests, with New Zealand’s batting line-up still being fragile and more conducive in playing the shorter formats of the game despite the presence of experienced players like Brendon McCullum and skipper Ross Taylor. He will be the key in changing the Black Caps’ Test fortunes in 2012 as the nation aims to move above its lowly no.8 spot in the ICC rankings.
10) Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka)
The young man from the Emerald Isles was born on November 18, 1989 in a place called Balapitiya, a name certainly unheard of. He was invited to the NCC at the age of 18 where he was invited to hone his skills by none other than the great Kumar Sangakkara. His coach there, Hemantha Devapriya, calls him ‘a level-headed player able to adjust to all situations’.
Chandimal is actually a wicketkeeper-batsman who idolizes Romesh Kaluwitharana for his attacking mode of batting and wicket-keeping skills. Consistent performances with the gloves and bat, including an attacking century against India Under-19s in August 2007 and an unbeaten 112 in the tri-nation series against England U-19s the following year earned him a call-up to the squad for the U-19 World Cup in Malaysia in 2008.
His tremendous accumulation of runs in Sri Lanka’s Interprovincial Twenty20 competition duly won a place in the national squad for the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010 in the Caribbean. Soon after, he made a one-day century against India in the tri-series in Zimbabwe where he made his ODI debut but was never able to build a stronghold in the playing XI until he made his Test debut on Boxing Day against South Africa, in Durban where he scored two impressive fifties in Sri Lanka’s historic victory.
2012 will be a year Chandimal would look forward to turn from a whipping boy to the bulwark of Sri Lanka’s batting which is in desperate need for a revival after a disastrous 43 all out in yesterdays ODI against South Africa.