'Eventful' barely begins to describe the cricketing events of 2010 - both on and off the pitch.
From the majesty of Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test century to the tawdry spot-fixing allegations, there have been celebrations and recriminations aplenty.
As it's the season to be merry we asked skysports.com columnist Bob Willis to focus on the positives from a cracking year and dish out a few awards of his own to mark some remarkable achievements...
Bob's International Awards
Test Team of the Year: South Africa
India may be top of the rankings but they look like they have a real battle on their hands this winter against a South African side that is exceptionally well led by Graeme Smith. As a unit the Proteas have pretty much everything, the one shortcoming being their inability to put all those aspects together in an integrated cricket team.
Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers have all scored heavily this year and posted double hundreds while the bowlers have hunted as a pack with Dale Steyn enjoying another exceptional year. As a unit they don't waste many deliveries - you don't see short balls fired all over the place - and Steyn is quite rightly the No 1 bowler in the world. Any captain would dream of having a bowler with his pace and potency in their side.
Test Player of the Year: Jacques Kallis
Kallis is a batsman who never gets the plaudits he deserves. His critics say his innings are one-paced and boring to watch and it's true that he doesn't play as many shots as the likes of De Villiers and Smith but equally he's never let South Africa down and this year his average has hovered in and around the 90 mark. Players like Kallis and Rahul Dravid are just as important in any team as the fancy Dan's. Quite simply I think Kallis is one of the best Test batsmen we've seen; I don't use the term 'great' very often but I think he is a great player, as 11,000-odd Test runs suggests. He's got terrific mental strength and stamina, which allows him to perform despite a heavy international schedule and his IPL commitments. Throw in his catching in the slip cordon and the wickets he's picked up in the Test arena and he would be the first name down on my World XI team-sheet.
One-day Team of the Year: India
India are blessed with a tremendously exciting batting line-up that extends virtually all of the way down - even Harbhajan Singh can be regarded as an all-rounder these days - and when that's combined with their strong all-round bowling attack it results in a pretty potent cricketing cocktail. It's going to be fascinating to see if they can knock Australia off their perch at the 2011 World Cup; they certainly have every chance of doing so although I'm sure the Aussies, England and South Africa will have something to say about that and, of course, you can never write off Sri Lanka either on the sub-continent. I know Zaheer Khan has struggled with injury this year but I still rate him extremely highly because he's one of the canniest bowlers around and if he, or one of his strike colleagues doesn't get you, then Mahendra Singh Dhoni always has any number of good spin options to call upon.
One-day Player of the Year: MS Dhoni
Dhoni remains a lethal quantity as a batsman despite having the extra responsibility of leading India's talented array of stars. While he's gone off the boil a little bit in Test cricket, his middle-order hitting remains a force in the one-day game and because he offers so much stability and strength down the order it gives the guys at the top a fantastic opportunity to play their natural game with freedom. That, combined with his excellent leadership and wicketkeeping, elevates him above most. Occasionally the Indian selectors give him a break from the frontline, which is eminently sensible because like Kallis he tends to play an enormous amount of cricket during the year. After Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni is one of the wealthiest sportsmen in India but he still possesses a hunger to go out there and perform; that's exactly the type of attitude you want in a top-class sportsman.
Bob's Domestic Awards
Championship Team of the Year: Nottinghamshire
There were some strong contenders but in the final analysis I couldn't look past the Champions, who won the title on points despite losing more games than any of their top-five rivals. The manner in which they clinched the title will stay with me for a long time, the players sitting around patiently for the Old Trafford rain to clear before going out on the final day to pick up the wickets they needed to secure the title-clinching bonus point. There was strength throughout their squad but special mention must go to overseas players Hashim Amla and David Hussey who were particularly influential and led the averages, as well as a seam attack that is the envy of many. They won't have Ryan Sidebottom in their ranks next season but there is still plenty of experience in the squad and in Samit Patel they have a top all-rounder and I'm glad to seem him included in England's 30-man squad for next year's World Cup. To cap it all they have someone who many would consider the best wicketkeeper in the country, Chris Read, and it will be tough to take the title off them in 2011.
Championship Player of the Year: James Hildreth
So long as Hildreth plays at Somerset people will continue to accuse him of scoring most of his runs on flat pitches but I thought there were signs that last season that he had really matured. I think that having the likes of Craig Kieswetter, Jos Buttler and Marcus Trescothick swashbuckling around him has helped his development enormously and he's rightly been awarded with the captaincy of the Performance Squad in the West Indies as a result. Going forward it would be great to see him putting more pressure on England's 'untouchables', as I like to call them; that is to say the incumbent top six in the batting order currently doing the rounds in Australia. For the record, Hildreth scored 1,440 Championship runs in division one at 65.45 in 2010 and I'm convinced there's plenty more to come from him in 2011.
Limited Overs Team of the Year: Somerset
Although they were the bridesmaids throughout the summer, I've gone for Somerset because they played highly-entertaining one-day cricket on a consistent basis. It's easy enough batting at Taunton but bowling is a highly specialised art. Somerset's bowlers responded well to the challenge with Murali Karthik in particular doing a fine job for them. Peter Trego didn't let them down either and was a constant threat with the bat too, while Trescothick - although naïve at times - showed that he is growing into the role of captain very well indeed. They are always going to struggle to win Championship matches playing on those pitches at Taunton but nevertheless they mounted a strong challenge for that crown as well. Their greatest chance of success remains in the limited overs game, though, and I'm sure they'll be the team to watch again in 2011.
Captain of the Year: Chris Read
Like Geraint Jones, Read's chance of earning a recall to the England side has gone but his all-round game - by which I mean his wicketkeeping, batting and captaincy - remains something to be admired. He's unfortunate in the sense that to represent your country in this day and age you have to be a top-class batsman to have a sniff of keeping wicket for England. His batting matured a little bit too late for his international career yet he has developed into an accomplished middle-order batsman at Notts, for whom he averaged 45.8 last season. He also remains one of the best keepers - if not the best - in the land despite carrying the extra burden of captaincy. As well as doing plenty on the field, he has the added difficulty of trying to keep those players who are left out of the starting XI happy - one of the nicer headaches to have when you are leading a successful, strong squad.
Let Bob know if you agree with his choices by filling out the feedback form below or Clicking here to email your point.
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Peter Williams says...
Sachin Tendulkar the best batsman since Brian Lara should have got a mention. Team of the Year what have England done wrong Word Cup 20/20 , Unbeaten in 3 Test series. Domestic wise MarcusTrescothick has to be high on list for both batsman and captain. James Foster and Ryan tendo should be mentioned aswell The current England team is doing us proud
Posted 12:22 6th January 2011
Brian Lara says...
Oh, Mr Willis, I do normally agree with your droning tone of voice, but hey, Bob, you never know, perhaps if "Lara" comes back and does well in the IPL, he might be comeback player of 2011 and, well, by jove, as you say in England, put the West Indies back on the map, and silence this talk of India, South Africa, Australia and England. Maybe, just maybe, he has been studying and practising, and more practise and more practise, and is now a better player than 400* not out?! What you say, Mr Bob Willis, to dat?! Ehh?!
Posted 00:16 28th December 2010
Brian Guild says...
agree with bob on kallis,one of the greats of the game
Posted 19:10 27th December 2010
Dave White says...
once again bob talks total tripe. like ponting its time for bob to retire
Posted 15:58 27th December 2010
Richard Melton says...
Have to agree with Bob on just about everything there. A great selection. All I would say is that Sachin probably deserves a mention for reaching 50 test tons.
Posted 21:46 26th December 2010
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