2017: The year in review

Best year ever: on Indian cricket's exceptional 2017

As Indian cricket wraps up a spectacularly successful year, key stress-tests lie ahead

The Indian men’s cricket team had an exceptional 2017 — statistically, its best year ever. Across formats, only the all-conquering Australians of 2003, with 38 wins from 47 games, managed more victories than India’s 37 in 53 matches this year. Virat Kohli’s side didn’t merely consolidate its hold on the No. 1 spot in Tests; it also routinely bullied the opposition in the shorter forms of the game. The lone blip came in the Champions Trophy in England, where India unravelled against a feisty Pakistan. But few will complain when a runner-up finish in a global tournament is the year’s biggest failure. That match apart, an inevitability seemed to accompany India’s success: whether it was a Test, a One-Day International or a Twenty20, the team took the field noticeably stronger than its adversary, and calmly, ruthlessly, set about proving it. It is often said that a side fashions itself in its captain’s image. There were certainly moments during the year when India played with the glowering intensity Kohli is famous for. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma stepped successfully into the breach when Kohli was absent; and both brought to the job the subtle impress of their personality. Besides, the side has leaders all around the pitch. The few times India was threatened in 2017 — and only Australia during the Tests early in the year did it more than once — it invariably found a hero.

The one discordant note in an otherwise harmonious 12 months was the controversy over Anil Kumble’s exit as coach. The episode should have been handled better, but it is encouraging that it did not derail the team. Indeed, the overall system looks robust and fertile — rare plants such as the quick-bowling all-rounder (Hardik Pandya) and the left-arm wrist-spinner (Kuldeep Yadav) don’t take root and flourish otherwise. Nor do specialist Test batsmen such as M. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara or pure glovemen such as Wriddhiman Saha. The thrust towards empowering bowlers, vital in a country smitten by batsmen, has not weakened. Clearly, the selectors and the team management — both in Kumble’s time and now under Ravi Shastri — are on the same page; so is Rahul Dravid, who has played a significant developmental role with the junior and ‘A’ sides. If there is a sobering thought in these heady times, it is that the new year will bring stiffer challenges. A lot of 2017 was at home; but 10 Tests in 2018 will be played in South Africa, England, and Australia, tours that stress-test every fissure and fault line. India will not be afforded too many mistakes. Kohli’s men have, however, given the team’s fans reason to dream.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 1:06:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/best-year-ever/article22271618.ece

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