Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.
There was some half-decent batting in 2018 – Virat Kohli played a couple of blinding innings, while Henry Nicholls averaged 73 – but it was the bowlers who stood out, and the pace bowlers in particular.
Full respect to Kagiso Rabada, the top wicket-taker with 52 at 20.07; kudos to Jasprit Bumrah who straight-armed his way to 48 at 21.02; and worthy mentions to Pat Cummins, Jimmy Anderson and Ishant Sharma, all of whom took over 40 wickets at somewhere around 20. However, the standout performers were Mohammad Abbas and Jason Holder.
The former took 38 wickets at 13.76 with his ostensibly unspectacular dobblery. The latter took 33 wickets at (what?!) 12.39 and nobody noticed.
At some point in the middle of June, Jason Holder turned into a completely different bowler. He went from being a guy who always looked like he should take wickets but didn’t, to being a guy who took exactly as many wickets as you imagined he would and then maybe a couple more on top of that.
We’ve no idea what happened. Maybe he and Michael Holding shared the same telepod and mingled DNA. Maybe he got confused by time zones following a long flight and gorged himself after midnight, triggering a metamorphosis into a seam bowling gremlin.
On June 20, Jason Holder had a Test bowling average of 38.83. In his next four Tests, against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, he took 30 wickets at 9.20.
That is, by any stretch, an improvement.
Of course he did
In many respects, this makes perfect sense. Jason Holder is a laser-guided two metre tall bowler. Of course he’s a challenge for batsmen to face. But where did this come from?
In the first innings of the day-night Test against Sri Lanka at Bridgetown, Holder came in to bat with the score reading 53-5, at which point he made 74.
This seems to have been the turning point as he then took 4-19 plus 5-41 in the second innings. (It was a stellar effort from the West Indies to lose that match really.)
Against Bangladesh he took 2-10 and 3-30 before ramping things up a bit in the second Test with 5-44 and 6-33.
Cheap wickets in easy conditions against easy opposition?
Not a bit of it. After that, Holder’s performance in a ten-wicket defeat in Hyderabad featured a fifty and 5-56 in India’s first innings. (He didn’t really get much chance to bowl in the second innings thanks to the swift losing of the match.)
There his Test year ended.
There’s a sense of dissatisfaction here; a feeling that others may have proven more. Holder took his wickets in six Tests against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. Rabada took his in ten against India, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
But ask yourself this: what more could Jason Holder possibly have done? If a captain can chip in with crucial runs and take his wickets at 12 while enduring all the press conferences and other hassle, that’s really something.
We’re not 100 per cent sure what that something is, but with three Tests against England and a couple more against India coming up in 2019, maybe we’ll find out.