2014 has arrived, and one thing’s for sure, it promises to be an exciting year, yet again, for the Indian cricket fans. This year’s going to be a huge litmus test for Team India as three demanding overseas tours(New Zealand, Australia and England) are all set to take place, starting with the New Zealand tour which kicks off on the 19th of this month.
The year, 2013, was a refreshing one for Indian fans, but, for the IPL spot fixing saga. The ODI team was unstoppable througout the year, displaying amazing consistency by winning 6 ODI series in a row,including the Champions Trophy triumph in England, before succumbing to the Proteas in their own den. No wonder why, Indians are ranked no.1 side in the world, and by some distance, is ahead of the Australians,who are ranked second.
The team displayed exceptional character and grit whenever the chips were down, fighting till the very end, ending up the better team on more occasions than not. I can distinctly recall the opening game of the Champions trophy at Edgbaston wherein the Proteas were running away with the game while chasing a 330 odd. AB de Villiers and allrounder, Robin Peterson were going absolutely berserk with Indian pace attack left clueless about how to put breaks on the run flow. It was the ‘Rockstar’, Ravindra Jadeja , as Shane Warne fondly calls him, who came to the party, producing an excellent piece of brilliance in the field, aided by his thunderous bullet arm,ran Peterson out. This dismissal got Indians all charged up and from then on, there was no looking back, as the South Africans were bundled out for 300 odd , hence India clinching the game comfortably in the end.
In the final of the same tournament, the young blooded Indian side’s, ‘Never Say Die’ attitude once again came to the fore, this time around,against England, defending 130 odd in a 20 over a side, rain affected match, thanks to two consecutive miraculous deliveries produced the death by the lanky pacer, Ishaant Sharma.
Talking about test cricket,Indians started off the year by literally running through Australia to attain a 4-0 clean sweep at home on rank turners, with the visiting team finding it hard going, both on and off the field, with homework gate making a split in the side.
In the latter half of the year,Team India tortured West Indies to a 2-0 white wash in a series arranged in a haphazard manner with the visitors cleaned up in less than 6 days in totality. It almost seemed to be a tribute offered to the outgoing, Sachin Tendulkar by the visiting team.
The most anticipated tour of South Africa, shortened from 4 to 2 test games due to off field rivalries, was the real deal for the young Indian team. And Indians gave the Proteas,a real run for their money, leading to a tightly fought draw in the first game before falling short in the second match. This series didn’t, by a mile,turn out to be the drubbing, as many cricket pundits predicted, that Indians would suffer.
Overall, the year threw up a plethora of positives in the two premier forms of the sport. 2013 would be recalled with affection, while recounting Indian cricketing history for the rise of two sparkling stars – Shikhar Dhawan and Md Shami.
Shikhar Dhawan announced himself to the world with a blisterring 187 run knock in his debut test against the Kangaroos at Mohali and carried the brilliant run of form in one dayers as well, compiling a mammoth 1162 runs at 50.52.
Mohammad Shami rise to the international cricket may not have been as spectacular as that of Dhawan, but it has been effective enough. With Ishaant and Umesh struggling to search form, the national team badly required a strike bowler who could couple up with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, so also, somebody who could bowl yorkers at will,during the fag end of the innings- Shami met this requirement and impressed one and all with his impeccable accuracy and the ability to reverse with the old ball in hand.
The year also saw the Rohit Sharma coming into his own,justifying his talent, finally. He was the fifth highest run scorer in ODIs this year with 1196 runs at an average of 52 runs per innings. A special mention to this Mumbaikar’s breathtaking strokeplay during the 209 run knock he smacked against Australia in the 7th one dayer at Bengaluru. Howewer, he would like to forget the South African tour in a hurry.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli got even better as the former bagged the ICC Emerging Player Of The Year,while the latter was the third highest run getter(1268 at 52.83) in ODIs this year,behind Pakistani skipper Misbah ul Haq and Md Hafeez. The two young middle order batsmen were the core factors behind India’s strong showing in South Africa.
Ravichandran Ashwin shined throughout the year with both bat and ball, climbing to the top of ICC rankings for test all rounders.Howewer, his failure to deliver in South Africa once again has cast shadows over his credentials outside the subcontinent.
The once written off all rounder,Ravindra Jadeja starred this year,with the ball in hand, picking up the most wickets(52) this year in ODIs.And unlike Ashwin, he shined with the ball both home and abroad.
The most painful part of 2013 was obviously,the master calling it a day post the 24-year memorable journey. Yes we won’t have another Sachin for a long period of time,or probably,never again. But,what we can definitely expect is that the youngsters in the side express themselves on the field fearlessly, just as the great man did with such precision for so long and drive Indian Cricket to new milestones in the future.
Even as the fab four (Sehwag, Sachin, Laxman, Dravid) have virtually left(Sehwag hasn’t retired but isn’t in any form at all), Indian cricket stares at the challenges,especially the ones outside the subcontinent in 2014 with conviction, thanks to the superb showing of the youngsters in England, West Indies, and South Africa in the year gone by.
The Australian tour, particularly, seems to be the hardest given the routing that England is receiving in the ongoing Ashes series down under. Dealing with the deadly pace attack, led by a rediscovered fast and furious Mitchell Johnson, will take some doing for the young Indian batters.
The T20 World Cup scheduled in Bangladesh will be a golden opportunity for the Indians to lift the cup once again after 7 years. Why I call it a golden opportunity is given the experience that Indians possess, both in terms of the format and the conditions, thanks to the Indian Premier League.
To sum it up,there is much to look forward to in the year 2014. A number of fascinating,crackerjack contests are on our way. Hence,plan this year well; sit back and enjoy the thrillingly poised action that’s on your way.