Indian cricket Year in Review: World Cup low and captaincy row aside, phenomenal overseas success sums up stellar 2021

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Starting the year by conquering ‘The Gabbatoir’ and ending it with by breaching the Centurion fortress, 2021 has been a remarkable year for Indian cricket – quite possibly, the best ever. About a decade ago, if one was to say that India, in one year, would register Test wins in Australia, England and South Africa, the only possible way to do it was through EA Sports Cricket. But the electricity and historic achievement of Team India doing the unthinkable in Brisbane, slaying England at Lord’s and the Oval, and becoming the first Asian team to win a Test in Centurion is one that may not be duplicated by a touring team for a long time. As 2021 comes to an end, we look back at how the year panned out for Indian cricket.

The high of Australia and stretching home dominance

Let’s roll back to January of 2021. With the series levelled at 1-1, India pulled off a remarkable escape at Sydney with the bruised and battered pair of Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin denying Australia. A match later, India managed a heist for the ages when they chased down 328 to beat Australia for the first time at the Gabba since 1988. That series shot to limelight the young duo of Rishabh Pant and Mohammed Siraj, who would go on to achieve incredible heights in months to come.

The home series against England did not start on the best of notes, with India going down comprehensively in the first Test. But from there onward, India proved just why they are the toughest team to beat at home. Debutant Axar Patel couldn’t have chosen a better venue than the historic Narendra Modi Stadium to tangle England in his web of spin and land the knockout punch in the Day/Night Test which lasted only two days. As India got the better of England in Tests, ODIs and T20Is, the mention of the series isn’t complete without Pant’s atrocious reverse scoop for six off James Anderson.

CSK the comeback Kings in Covid-marred IPL

The IPL returned to India even as the country grappled a deadly wave of Covid-19 but midway through the tournament it was postponed after the virus entered the bubble. It was later resumed in the UAE where MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings proved they were the king of comebacks. A year after CSK were knocked out, the Yellow Brigade lifted its fourth IPL title. The season produced sensational stars in Ruturaj Gaikwad and Harshal Patel, both of whom would go on to make their debuts for India, while Avesh Khan got rewarded with his maiden India call-ups.

India bounce back from WTC final loss with sizzling show against England

India’s two years of hard work came crashing down in Southampton, where they lost to New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship, thus extending their wait of winning an ICC title. But in the long run, it was the only blip in what would prove to be one of India’s most memorable Test series of all time. Chasing a first Test series in England, India had the hosts on the mat before Covid returned to spoil the party, leading to the cancellation of the fifth Test. But before the series ended in a dampener, individual brilliances from Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul – both of whom scored centuries, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj and others saw India produce a sensational show. After rain helped England escape with a draw in Nottingham, Rahul shone with a century at Lord’s to help India go 1-0 up. England levelled in Headingly, but Rohit’s maiden overseas Test ton at the Oval handed India back the lead. The Men in Blue looked set to land the final blow before the Manchester game was called off. This was enough substance to prove that this Indian side meant business.

The rise of Mohammed Siraj

The famous Indian pace quintet lost Bhuvneshwar Kumar as the fast went down in the pecking order but gained a valuable name in Mohammed Siraj. Since his debut last year, the 27-year-old has been the find of 2021 for Indian cricket. He led the bowling attack at the Gabba and returned a five-for. Later, in England, he grabbed 14 wickets from 4 Tests and his 4/32 at Lord’s helped India seal a memorable result. If the detractors felt Siraj wasn’t as effective on Indian soil, he proved them wrong with 3/19 against New Zealand in Mumbai before ending the year channelling his inner Cristiano Ronaldo with three wickets in the Centurion Test. In the process, Siraj received tremendous endorsement from the whose who of Indian cricket, including the great Sachin Tendulkar. Watch out for him. Siraj is the next big thing in India cricket.

Shastri’s tenure ends with T20 World Cup low

Ravi Shastri achieved tremendous laurels during his tenure as India coach but winning an ICC trophy wasn’t one of them. In a span of four months, India squandered the opportunity of winning a second ICC title as they fumbled big time at the T20 World Cup in the UAE. Billed as favourites, India were handed a defeat by Pakistan in their WC opener – the first time it happened – and following a second straight loss to New Zealand, they were technically knocked. Wins against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia were merely a consolation as a jaded and fatigued Indian team failed to reach the knockouts of an ICC tournament for the first time in eight years. No one envisioned such an underwhelming outing from a team that promises so much more. It was easily Indian cricket’s lowest moment of the year.

Welcome, Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid was assigned the task of coaching India’s limited-overs team in Sri Lanka with the Shastri-coached Test team in England. As it turns out, it was a sign of bigger things to come. Dravid officially replaced Shastri as head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team in October and got his tenure off with a 3-0 win over New Zealand in T20Is, while the Tests were won 1-0. With a rich history in coaching – look no further than what Dravid has achieved with the India A and Under-19 teams – the Wall was the best candidate in sight of the BCCI. After the Sri Lanka series, Dravid himself pointed out that ‘he hasn’t thought’ about the prospect of becoming India’s full-time head coach, but deep down most knew and wanted this temporary gig to become permament.

His word against his: The Virat Kohli vs Sourav Ganguly saga

The biggest controversy of the year 2021 in India cricket erupted when the BCCI replaced Virat Kohli with Rohit as captain of India’s white-ball teams. Kohli had already relinquished India’s T20I captaincy, but had expressed his desire to continue as Test and ODI captains. So when the BCCI decided to announce the change in guard through a simple tweet, and took over 24 hours to acknowledge Kohli’s contribution as India’s ODI captain – the record of which is bloody good – it created a storm. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly tried to put a lid on the pot by revealing the reason behind the decision, saying that the board requested Kohli to carry on as T20I captain but it was turned down.

Things however, reached a crescendo when Kohli’s views on the incident were totally contrasting. The fact that Kohli said that he was informed about being removed as the ODI captain only 1.5 hours in advance was enough to give birth to the Kohli vs Ganguly saga. Experts and former cricketers weighed in, some siding with Kohli, some with Ganguly, but as history is proof, all controversies are put to rest when India plays well. And that is exactly what happened this time around as well.

Capping off with another historic win

With a testing tour of South Africa awaiting, there was a possibility of all the outside chatter affecting India’s performance in the Test series, but those doubts were thwarted as Team India put on a memorable show in Centurion and registered a thumping 113-run win in their last match of the year. Rahul and Mohammed Shami led the way with a century and a five-wicket-haul respectively, helping India become the first Asian team to win a Test match at the venue. The result capped off a brilliant year, one that probably sets the bar for others team. This team won in Australia, led in England, beat New Zealand and England at home and took the first Test in South Africa. As controversial as it may sound, you could be looking at quite possibly, the best Indian Test unit of all time.




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