Year 2013 will go down the history of Indian cricket as one of the turning points in its history. The year saw the exit of legendary Indian player Sachin Tendulkar from the center stage of International cricket. Sachin Tendulkar was and is the greatest icon and the best ever sporting ambassador that the country has produced in the last 25 years. He is the first sportsperson to be conferred the highest civilian award of the country Bharat Ratna.
This heralds the new beginning for the team, as the new set of players are trying to come together as a unit, to take the team forward. Let me briefly review the year that went by and analyze the key finds for the team that are likely to stick around.
This year he consolidated his reputation as “The New Wall ” even in testing overseas conditions. For most of 2012, he was building his reputation of being the ideal replacement to legendary Rahul Dravid at number 3. This was being done at home, even during most of 2013. Its only during the later part of the year that he got to display his skills overseas. In the two tests that concluded against South Africa, he has lived up to the title conferred to him, even in testing conditions. He has been the highest scorer for India and looked most comfortable and solid in all the innings he played. India continues to look forward to him for most of 2014 in the Test arena. His ability to accelerate the scoring pace, once he settles down is something that might help him to get into the ODI team at some point.
Although he is not a new find for the year, this year has been the turning point in transforming him into a player that India can bank for the years to come. His first Test century in testing conditions came in Australia, after few initial failures, in 2012. That was the foundation on which he started to build. He did not let down the trust that the team management had in him in the recently concluded South Africa series, by scoring close to 300 runs in the two test series against the world’s number one bowling attack. At this juncture he seems to be the ideal fit for the shoes of a man who scored almost 13,000+ runs in that crucial number 4 position in Test Cricket. We all hope that over the next year, he will establish himself in Tests, in bowling friendly conditions of New Zealand and England. In ODIs he has already built a reputation of the most valuable player, especially when chasing big targets.
For years people have been writing about his talent and it was up to him, to prove that it was not a flash in the pan. The criticism was that, he was wasting too many opportunities given to him in the middle order in ODIs. This year the selectors presented him one more opportunity, this time as an opener in ODIs. He took to this role as naturally as fish to water. Although he did not set the trail blazing with his performances yet baring the sensational double hundred against the Aussies, he has been playing an important role by providing solid starts along with the other find of the season Shikar Dhawan at the top of the order. Their good starts helped India clinch the Champions trophy in England. His steady performances in ODI opened the Test door for him, which he grabbed with both hands by scoring a century on debut, although against the West Indies at home. This dream debut with his talent was a baggage on his first tour abroad as part of the test team. In testing conditions in South Africa, he could not consolidate on the few good starts that he had. The next year gives him an opportunity to him to either strengthen his position in the Test team or lose it out to someone more talented
This year saw another opener emerge from Delhi after the gradual decline of Sehwag and Gambhir. Dhawan has been playing under the shadows of his predecessors for a while and was consistently performing in domestic circuit. When the right opportunity came his way, he did not let it go, with a dream debut against a younger Australian team. This dream debut against Australia has come under scrutiny and questions raised against his technique and patience in the recently concluded South Africa series, where the extra bounce and consistency of the South African bowlers did not let him run away and dominate, as he usually does. At the end of the tour, everyone hopes, that he has learned his lessons, and realizes that he cannot dominate everywhere across the world but has to learn to be patient and build his innings, specially in tests. With his partner Rohit Sharma in the ODIs, they seem to be the pair that will take on the world to defend the title in Australia in 2015.
Another player who has been scoring runs by tons in the domestic circuit and was improving his skills under the watchful eyes of Rahul Dravid, his opening partner in IPL, was finally given his Test cap at home. Although he did not set the field on fire like the other debutants of the year, his has been a story of steady improvement. He signed off the year on a high note, scoring a fighting 96 against a South Africa bowling attack, which was on fire, on a day 5 track at Durban. He just fell 4 runs short of what would have been a very rare century by an Indian in a second innings of a test match outside India. He did consolidate his position in the Test team for sure for some years to come. He just need a break through to get into the ODI team to further enhance his reputation of a dependable middle order batsmen.
He is one of the latest finds for India in the fast bowling department. With a reputation of a workhorse with good pace from the domestic circuit he broke into the national team. A good debut with 9 wickets in his first test did raise the hopes for many Indians that they have found their next bowling spearhead. Although he did not significantly enhance his reputation on the tour of South Africa, he did not loose track either. The rest of next year gives him plenty of opportunity to learn and improve in bowling friendly conditions in New Zealand and England. With all this experience in hand, hopefully he will improve from where he is now and not fade away like the many that came and went in the Indian fast bowling department.
With a lot of Test cricket to be played abroad in 2014 and a World Cup coming in a year from now, India looks forward to its young brigade to carry the team forward and hopefully retain the World Cup.