It's that time of the year again when we prepare ourselves to bid it goodbye, and welcome in a new one. The bygone year may not have been a pleasant one for most folks, but it certainly was eventful from the cricketing perspective.
The year 2016 saw the return of the likes of Mohammed Amir to the international fold, the advent of pink-ball Test cricket, Virat Kohli's domination – both as a batsman across all formats, as well as the Indian Test captain, Australia going through their worst slump in decades and Pakistan living up to their 'mercurial' tag.
While the year was not dotted with retirements like its predecessor, it certainly threw up a fresh, young stock of talent. On that note, let us take a look at five of the most memorable debuts witnessed in 2016, arranged in chronological order.
Note: The list includes only those cricketers who made their international debuts this year, which means we have to leave someone like New Zealand's Colin de Grandhomme out, despite his sensational six-wicket haul on his Test debut at Christchurch.
Stephen Cook, South Africa vs England, 4th Test at Centurion (January)
Imagine the pain Cook must have gone through, topping the run-charts in the domestic setup year-after-year, shattering one record after another, while not getting a call-up into the Proteas side.
While most would have left South African shores for the greener pastures beyond (England being the case seven out of 10 times), Cook decided to stay back and fight his way into the national side.
Much like his father Jimmy, Stephen had to wait for some time before earning his maiden cap. In the latter’s case, it arrived 16 years after kick-starting his domestic career. And boy did he find a way to make his maiden international appearance count – emerging a centurion in Centurion as the South Africans managed to salvage some pride in a lost series with a 280-run win.
Jasprit Bumrah, Australia vs India, 5th ODI at Sydney (January)
The Gujarat pacer, with an action moulded along the lines of Mumbai Indians team-mate Lasith Malinga, finally got his big international break during India’s tour of Australia earlier this year.
Arriving on the back of consistent performances in the Ranji Trophy as well as the Vijay Hazare Trophy back home, Bumrah got his maiden ODI cap in the final one-dayer on a flat Sydney track – where his innocuous-looking figures of 2/40 turned out to be the best among either attacks, as India managed to avoid a whitewash with a six-wicket win.
However, it was in the T20 series that followed that he earned captain MS Dhoni’s praise of being picked as the ‘find of the tour’. With six wickets, including three in the first match, he emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the series.
Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Bangladesh vs England, 1st Test at Chittagong (October)
The Test series against England in October this year was a landmark one for Bangladesh.
After their giant-killing efforts against top teams such as Pakistan, India and South Africa, they managed to conquer a team of England’s stature in a format in which they had not met with much success. Also, because it witnessed the emergence of a potential spin legend in Mehedi Hasan Miraz.
In an effort that would make Narendra Hirwani proud, Miraz ended up with 19 wickets from four innings at an average of 15.63 and a strike rate of 34 – which is world-class by any standards. On surfaces that were tailor-made for slower bowlers, it was he who emerged as England’s tormentor-in-chief, with help from veteran all-rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan of course.
While his first innings figures of 6/80 in the first Test at Chittagong went in vain, he continued to bowl with the same vein at Dhaka, where a spectacular collapse on the third day saw England crumbling from 100/0 to 161 all out, inside a session. Needless to say, he was adjudged both the ‘Man of the Match’ as well as the ‘Man of the Series’.
Jayant Yadav, India vs England, 2nd Test at Visakhapatnam (November)
The Haryana all-rounder had just made his international debut in an ODI against New Zealand at Vizag a little over two weeks before his maiden Test, which incidentally would occur at the same venue.
After skipper Virat Kohli fought hard to save the hosts from the blushes in the first Test at Rajkot, the Indians needed to fight back hard in order to reassert their home dominance.
Enter Jayant, who earned his place in the XI with Amit Mishra getting rested. Even though the spotlight was fixed on Kohli and his magnificence with the bat, especially his 81 in the second innings on a surface that could easily be rated as one of the toughest in the world, Jayant silently went about contributing both with bat and ball.
His figures of 3/30 in the second innings were the best among the Indians as they managed to decimate the Englishmen to produce a 246-run win. That however, was just the beginning for Jayant, as there was more to come later in that series.
Keaton Jennings, India vs England, 4th Test in Mumbai (December)
With Haseeb Hameed ruled out of the remainder of the Test series due to a finger injury, the focus shifted to Durham batsman Keaton Jennings, who had enjoyed good form for the England Lions.
The Johannesburg-born opening batsman not only made the most of the opportunity by cracking a fluent 112 in the first innings, he even stepped up the competition for the role of opening alongside captain Alastair Cook. What made his debut even more memorable was a second innings duck – only the fourth such instance in the history of Tests.
In the end, his efforts did not count for much as far as the team’s interests were concerned, as the visitors collapsed to an innings defeat to surrender the series.
Haseeb Hameed, India vs England, 1st Test at Rajkot (November)
It would be unfair for this list to end without a mention of Hameed, nicknamed ‘Bolton Boycott’ for his steadfast approach at the crease and ability to grind out for hours altogether.
After falling for 31 in the first innings of the first Test at Rajkot in his native state of Gujarat (before his parents migrated to England), Hameed dominated the Indian bowlers in the second essay along with captain Cook, as the two went on to share a 180-run opening stand.
That, along with the near-capitulation of the Indian batting unit in the second innings, were perhaps England’s brightest moments in an otherwise disastrous series.
His 82 however, looked dull when compared to a valiant, unbeaten 59 in Mohali, an innings in which he displayed his ability to switch gears as per the situation. More importantly, he was batting with an injured hand, a sign of his indomitable spirit that will surely take him places in the years to come.
Updated Date: Dec 29, 2016 13:59:32 IST