Virat Kohli and Team India’s year

What can one say about Virat Kohli? He never relaxed for a nano second during the year when his batting form was beyond phenomenal. Seldom has a batsman looked in complete control in all formats of the game like Kohli did this year.

Virat Kohli and his men celebrate after defeating England in the fifth and final Test in Chenaai.   -  PTI

Ravichandran Ashwin winning the ICC Player of the Year award and also the Test Player of the Year award is a perfect ending to a fantastic year for the Indian all-rounder. He played a major role in India’s winning performances over the year with both bat and ball and thus won the award with plenty to spare. The past year has made Ashwin believe in his ability to play match-defining innings with the bat. He has always been a confident player with loads of self belief but the Test matches in the West Indies, where he got two hundreds at crucial times, made him understand his batting better. Along with that came the belief that he can bat in a manner the team needed at that particular situation. As an off-spinner he is head and shoulders above other spinners in the game and the way he plans and plots the dismissals is fascinating indeed.

 

What experience has taught him is that at the highest level it is not possible to get top quality batsmen out every ball, but one can play patiently and lure them to make an error. Ashwin also has great support in the field from an Indian side that shows no discernible weakness apart from its slip catching. It is here the team needs the guidance of those who have actually fielded in the slips and have taken dozens of catches off seam as well as spin bowling. The way the current fielders stand in the slips or at forward short leg, make it extremely hard for them to seize the catches that come near their bootlaces and so many a chance has gone abegging. Once the experienced guys guide them as to the kind of stance that gives them flexibility, anticipation and speed then more catches will be held and teams dismissed even more cheaply than ever. The out-fielding is terrific with some of the fleetest feet in the history of Indian cricket, so that saves the boundaries, but as always catches win matches and once that close catching improves, India will win more games all over the world.

There was a fair bit of churning in the Indian team with injuries, meaning that seldom did India go in with the same eleven for two consecutive Test matches. The opening positions shuffled between Shikhar Dhawan and K. L. Rahul with Murali Vijay being the constant, till he also broke his thumb and missed out on a couple of Test matches. Cheteshwar Pujara’s comeback to the Indian team with a vastly improved range of strokes is the best thing that has happened to the Indian batting. Pujara’s technique and solidity are absolutely essential when playing overseas. And now that he has also started to play freely, keeping the scoreboard moving at a good pace without losing out on the basics is terrific as India looks to score at a good clip to give its bowlers enough time to dismiss the opposition in both the innings.

What can one say about Virat Kohli? He never relaxed for a nano second during the year when his batting form was beyond phenomenal. Seldom has a batsman looked in complete control in all formats of the game like Kohli did this year. What was even more impressive was the manner in which he compartmentalised the batting for different formats of the game. He hardly, if ever, played a lofted shot in Test cricket yet scored fast enough to set the pace for the others. Getting three double hundreds in a matter of less than six months also tells us about his hunger for big scores.

Ajinkya Rahane had a mixed year and a dislocated index finger kept him out of the major part of the England Test series even as it opened the door to another fine talent, Karun Nair. Nair grabbed his chance with a triple hundred and looks set to be a fixture in the Indian team for years to come.

Wriddhiman Saha also had a good year till injury gave Parthiv Patel another chance. The Gujarat glove-man was superb in front of the stumps with the bat, but in the three Tests that he played he did drop more than he should have. Luckily most of the misses were not expensive, but Saha will surely be back behind the stumps, once he is fit.

India’s new ball bowlers were terrific throughout the year, even on surfaces which were not too conducive to quick bowling. Umesh Yadav bowled with zest and energy in every game that he played. His razor sharp fielding in the deep and accurate throwing was a delight to watch. Mohammad Shami was the cynosure of all eyes since he was making a comeback after knee surgery and he showed that he is the best of them as he bowled fast and swung the ball both ways. He also bowled a mean accurate bouncer that had many a batsman hopping and looked like getting a wicket every time he came on to bowl.

This year-end analysis is incomplete without a mention of Ravindra Jadeja, the most improved Indian cricketer. His fielding has been spectacular and the catch he took to dismiss Jonny Bairstow in the fifth and final Test match in Chennai will be remembered for a long time. It was as a batsman that he came of age this year and a Test century is not far away if he continues to believe in himself and his batting ability. His match-winning haul of 10 wickets in Chennai confirms that he is an ideal foil to Ashwin’s off-spin and both of them work fabulously together. He will get better and better with every match he plays and will win more matches for India in the future.

It’s been a wonderful year for Indian cricket and let us hope that it continues to grow in the years to come.

Happy sporting year to all you readers!