What a season this has been for Indian cricket. Season of a lifetime, as head coach Ravi Shastri has called it. Never has there been such a dramatic season as cricket lovers have witnessed in the last few months. The ups and downs, the highs and lows have just kept every follower on tenterhooks, not knowing which way the game is going to finish. In the end, it concluded in India’s favour more times and that made it even more exciting and exhilarating.
After the exploits in Australia with a team that was weakened by the absence of its captain on paternity leave and some other key players through injury, it was expected that on home surfaces and familiar conditions, the Englishmen would be run over. That didn’t quite happen as the England team began by winning the first Test match. That was a wake-up call, and with the prospect of qualifying for the first-ever World Test Championship final in the balance, India went back to its favourite tried-and-trusted ploy of preparing pitches that helped the spinner more than the pacer.
The Indian team had shown in Australia that it did not need spinning pitches to win Test matches. However, the loss in the first Test where England skipper Joe Root had batted splendidly may have created a bit of concern in the Indian team, and hence the revert to pitches that helped spin. Not that the pitches were unplayable as was shown by two wonderful centuries, one by Rohit Sharma in the first innings of the second Test and then a splendid one by Ravichandran Ashwin in the second innings where he backed his words with action, showing how application determination and good shot selection can help score runs on a challenging surface. Once England lost that game, the template for India became clear. The two Test matches in Ahmedabad were a blink-and-miss affair as local boy Axar Patel’s fastish left-arm spin and Ashwin’s canny off-spinners ran through the English batting like a hot knife through butter.
The Twenty20 and the One-Day International series were much closer as the England team is top ranked in both and there were thrills galore with matches invariably going the distance. The T20 series was a see-saw affair with England winning the first game and again the pinch was enough to galvanise the Indians into coming out and playing superbly to tie the series 1-1. England won the third and India took the fourth to take the series to the decider, which the host dominated and won. The highlight of the series was Virat Kohli’s batting and the scintillating debut by Suryakumar Yadav where he hit the first ball he faced as an India player for a six and that too off the pace of Jofra Archer.
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The three match one-day series started with India winning the first game for a change and England, the current world champs, came back by winning the second one chasing down a huge total of 336 with more than six overs to spare. In the deciding last game, India was on the back foot till Rishabh Pant played a typical swashbuckling innings and had a partnership with another bustling strokemaker Hardik Pandya that helped take India past the 300 mark again. England in its chase was down in the dumps having lost six wickets and almost 200 runs needed to win. It looked all over bar the shouting, but young Sam Curran had different ideas and his audacious batting almost took England home. The side lost by only seven runs and India had clinched all the three formats to add to its stupendous performance in Australia.
What was heartening about the matches against England was the way the youngsters stood up like they had done in Australia. This augurs well for the future of Indian cricket and Indian cricket lovers have much to look forward to.
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