Colourful on-field, chaotic off-field year for Indian cricket….reports Tridib Baparnash
It has been a year of fireworks for Indian cricket. The players have unfurled stupendous performances to close the year as the top ranked Test team, while off the field, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) top brass have been at the receiving end of the Supreme Court’s ire for defying the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations.
The year started with India reclaiming the lost glory in the T20 format in which they were the inaugural champions in 2007, and eventually ended with the team completing a 4-0 humiliation of England to consolidate the numero uno spot in the longest format.
While Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team lost out to eventual champions West Indies in the World Twenty20 semi-finals, Virat Kohli ensured that 2016 ended with India extending their winning streak to 18 Tests — the longest since March 1987.
Here is a look at India’s overall performance throughout the year:
With the focus on T20s, India started the year with the limited overs tour Down Under where the Men-In-Blue flunked miserably in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series to go down 1-4. However, India bounced back well in the shortest format, completing a 3-0 whitewash of the Kangaroos in their own den.
Back home, India had to pass the Sri Lankan test before proceeding to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup T20. The hosts were off to a shocking loss to the young Sri Lankan side in the first match, but Dhoni’s army soon rediscovered their mojo to win the next two matches and win the series.
After the 2-1 drubbing of Sri Lanka, India headed to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup, which was clipped to a T20 tournament for the first time ever. The Indians defeated the hosts in their first outing before convincingly outclassing their arch-rivals Pakistan, and went on to beat Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the rain-marred final, India were up against the home side, but Dhoni’s men had no trouble in lifting the title. The Asia Cup title put India in good stead to reclaim the World T20 crown, which has been evading them since the inaugural edition in 2007.
Hosted for the first time in India, the home side went into the tournament as the hot favourites but Dhoni’s men were off to a nightmarish start, losing to New Zealand in their opening match.
The hosts, however, recovered from the early jolt as they beat Pakistan in their next outing before winning a nail-biting tie against Bangladesh and then needed a Virat Kohli-special to tame Australia in a must-win tie.
Despite getting their campaign back on track with three hard-fought wins, India went down to eventual champions, the West Indies, in the semi-final played at the Wankhede Stadium — to be deprived of the title once again.
A week after the World T20, the Indian Premier League (IPL) started and it mostly centred on a marauding Virat Kohli, who took T20 batting to a completely new level, slamming four centuries to end as the highest run-getter with 973 runs.
Despite his glorious run with the willow, Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) once again failed to lift the title, as they lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the final.
The IPL followed the brief tour to Zimbabwe, where a second string Indian side was enough to dish out a 3-0 whitewash to the hosts. But the African minnows salvaged some pride in the first T20 before India managed to find their feet and clinch the remaining two games to pocket the series 2-1.
India then headed off to the West Indies to kick off their long Test season ahead. Kohli led the team from the front in the first Test with his maiden double ton to comprehensively beat the hosts by an innings and 92 runs before drawing the remaining two matches as India got back to the No.1 ranking again, albeit for a short while.
After the Tests, both the sides headed to Florida in the United States, where they faced off in two T20 Internationals.
India suffered a nail-biting one-run defeat in the first T20I before incessant rain disrupted the next match midway after the West Indies’ innings.
Back in their own den, Kohli’s boys after losing their No.1 rank to Pakistan had nothing but one thing on mind — to reclaim their number one spot in the three-Test rubber against New Zealand.
India not only whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0 but also grabbed their spot back on top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings.
Thereafter, the Blackcaps gave a good fight in the five-match ODI series, where fortunes fluctuated after each game to make it 2-2, the final game in Visakhapatnam becoming the decider. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s heroics (5/18) helped India romp home comfortably to take the series 3-2.
After barely a week’s rest, Kohli’s brigade was up for the English challenge, involving five Tests against a side to whom they had lost their last three series drastically.
After drawing the first Test at Rajkot, Kohli and Co. took the challenge hands down as India handed Alastair Cook’s men a 4-0 drubbing to end the year at the zenith of the Test rankings with 120 points.
In the limited-overs formats, India finished the year at No.3 in ODIs and at No.2 in T20Is.
Off the field, it was the tussle between the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee and the BCCI that created the headlines.
Despite repeated warnings from the apex court, including possible charges of perjury against the incumbent BCCI President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke, to adhere to the Lodha panel’s recommendations for cleansing the mess within the cricket board, an adament BCCI is still to toe the Supreme Court’s line.