The last year of the decade started on a victorious note for Indian cricket when the fourth and final Test match of the series in Sydney ended in a draw. With that draw the Indian cricket team won a Test series in Australia for the first time and, in fact, became the first team from the sub-continent to win a Test series down under. Australia is a tough place to play because the Aussies are far more in your face at home than anywhere else, backed by a vociferous crowd and a media that is like an extension of their support staff and tries to undermine the visiting teams from the moment they land in Australia.
That was the beginning of a magnificent cricketing year for the Indian team with the only stumble being the loss to New Zealand in the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup. The elements were in favour of the Kiwis that day as the overcast conditions at Old Trafford in Manchester meant their new ball attack got the white ball to swing much more than it usually does and once India’s two most prolific batsmen in the tournament, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, were out in quick succession the rest of the batting which had not got much airing till then was simply not able to do the job. That disappointment was quickly set aside as the once mighty West Indians were rolled aside in both the Tests and one-day internationals and the second half of the year began on a winning note again.
The South Africans had a forgettable ICC World Cup losing most of their matches and so the tour to India was an opportunity to start afresh. However, despite doing well in the ultra-short format of the game where captaincy hardly plays a part the team succumbed tamely in the three-Test match series losing all three, the last two inside four days. Despite having quality players in its ranks, South Africa was bereft of leadership and guidance and lost tamely in the end.
The Bangladesh team started like the Proteas, on a winning note, in the T20 series, taking the first game. That was a wake up call to the Indians who were, perhaps understandably, still savouring the fabulous Test series win over the South Africans. Thereafter there was no stopping the Indians once again as they walked all over a Bangladesh team that looked out of its depth in the longest format of the game.
The Windies returned and again after an absorbing T20 series they faltered when in sight of winning to lose yet another ODI series against the Indians. The standout performers for the Indian team were as always the batsmen, but the bowlers, especially the speedsters, were not far behind as they hunted in packs and gave the batsmen a torrid time. There was the swing and leg-cutters of Ishant Sharma, the big daddy of the group, and the skiddy pace of Mohammed Shami whose accuracy and relentless probing of the batsmen’s weaknesses made him a threat with every delivery he bowled. There was also Umesh Yadav who got a lifeline and grabbed it with both hands to come up with spells that rattled the opposition. It was terrific to watch as these guys made the batsmen duck and weave. Seldom have the opposing teams’ batsmen been hit on the helmet by the Indian pace battery as much as was seen this year. The spinners did their part too as Ashwin and Jadeja kept the pressure on and ensured that the tail did not wag.
The fielding too was a delight with Jadeja, in particular, prowling around. The skipper himself took some acrobatic catches and with the best ’keeper in the world Wriddhiman Saha back to his spot there was class behind the stumps as well.
It truly was a year to cherish and the Indian cricket fans would want their beloved blues to win more laurels and also some special silverware in the new decade.
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