Indian cricket was a work in progress in the year gone by. It was a season of reckoning for some and a brush with reality for others as India bid farewell to its greatest cricket icon and welcomed some young Turks who promise to grow into stars in times to come.
The year also extended the team’s poor record overseas when M. S. Dhoni’s men went down in the one-day and Test series in South Africa.
It was the team’s third straight away Test series loss under Dhoni’s captaincy. India finished the tour without a win to sign off on a bitter note after having begun the year promisingly with a thumping 4-0 series win against Australia at home.
Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement was the biggest event of international cricket. Guard of honour awaited him, on and off the field, and he left many in tears with a sombre speech at the Wankhede Stadium on his final day in India colours.
While relinquishing a game he came to dominate and decorate with his distinguished contributions Tendulkar signalled the end of a great career. He had always played on his terms. He quit on same lines.
Six Test wins at home reiterated India’s stronghold when playing in favourable conditions. Once the ball swung and bounced, most batsmen looked out of place, hopping and jumping in discomfort, with the glorious exception of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, who faced the short and fast ball with technical excellence built on the strength of self-belief and confidence.Disturbing trends
There were some disturbing trends too. The IPL spot-fixing saga that devoured an achiever like S. Sreesanth was a sad episode.
It also engulfed Chennai Super Kings which struggled to shrug off its association with Board president N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, accused of allegedly leaking inside information and betting.
The IPL controversy promised a churning in the Board but Srinivasan managed to tame his opposition. He however, lost the support of Sanjay Jagdale, an upright administrator who opted to part ways as cricket’s image took a heavy beating. The Anil Kumble-supported panel losing in Karnataka was a disturbing sign, not to forget Bishan Singh Bedi and his group succumbing to the proxy menace rampant in Delhi and District Cricket Association.
The emergence of Kohli and Pujara augured well for Indian cricket. The splendid debut by Shikhar Dhawan at Mohali was a stirring development but Kohli and Pujara stood for their exceptional show in South Africa.
A century each by Kohli and Pujara in the Test at Johannesburg reconfirmed their status as the most improved batsmen in the team. Kohli was outstanding with six centuries, a 96, a 99, an 86 apart from five half-centuries in international matches.Lone gain
Towards the end, young Ajinkya Rahane, the lone gain from the series against South Africa, produced a crafty innings to raise hopes of much-needed quality in the middle order since Dhoni continues to struggle away from home. His overseas record a dismal account with just one Test century in 66 innings!
Pujara’s rise was unsurprising. His aggregate of 829 runs was in keeping with his talent. Kohli’s 646 for the year was evidence of his growing stature, always attacking, always positive, a pleasing boost to the team’s aspirations. R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja remained the team’s main spinners even though Pragyan Ojha was the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ in Sachin’s farewell Test.
Mohammad Shami became the new face of Indian fast bowling as Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma showed signs of decline.
The explosive Virender Sehwag, losing his Test spot and not coping with sliding form, presented a pitiable sight. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh sailed in the same boat too.
India fared well in One-Day Internationals, winning 22 of the 34 matches, with Kohli contributing an awesome 1268 runs. Rohit Sharma (1196 runs) and Dhawan (1162 runs) proved an ideal opening pair.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped India add the Champions Trophy to its conquests but the year was best marked by the draw at Johannesburg, a glowing testimony to the intrigue that makes Test cricket such a spectacle.