2011: Mixed bag for Team India
It was indeed a year of contrasts in Indian cricket. There were some memorable highs interspersed by some forgettable lows.
But April 2, 2011 will certainly be etched in the memory of millions of cricket crazy Indians. For a generation which has only watched the highlights of Kapil`s Devils taming the formidable West Indies, watching Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir tame the Lankan Lions at the Wankhede was indeed a special feeling.
In the biggest platform like World Cup, it was about playing well in the three crunch games at the knock-out stage. India did just that as they knocked defending champions Australia out in the quarter-finals, a match that was won by `Player of The Tournament` Yuvraj Singh.
Rarely had any match created the buzz and hype like India`s World Cup semi-final against Pakistan at Mohali did. And the after-match scenes were comparable to even what one saw in Mumbai and across the country after the finals.
The tag of `Captain Cool` seemed more befitting on Dhoni than any other time after his composed 91 saw India cross the finishing line with ease. The manner in which he sent a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery soaring into the stands was big-match temperament personified.
Sachin Tendulkar was in his element during the matches against England and South Africa-his 98th and 99th international centuries. Since then it has been an agonising wait for millions as to when the maestro would complete his 100th international ton.
Dhoni`s `Midas Touch` continued as Chennai Super Kings successfully defended the IPL crown and the skipper got a much needed rest. But as they say "What goes up comes down" and it proved to be apt for Dhoni and his men as they were soundly thrashed in Old Blighty.
Even the staunch England supporters wouldn`t have thought that India would be blanked 0-4 in the Test series. Worse, India lost the coveted No 1 ranking in Test matches-and the bragging rights of possessing the best team in longer format.
It was one man responding to the name of Rahul Dravid, who stood tall amidst the ruins, scoring three centuries in four Test matches. Each and every century was a testimony to the fact that there is no substitute for class and experience in pressure situations. Dravid`s performance was the only silver lining in the dark clouds that hovered throughout the 75-day tour.
The England tour also proved to be an eye opener for the Board of Control for Cricket in India about how lackadaisical was the injury management process of the Indian team. Zaheer Khan broke down with a hamstring injury on the first day of the opening Test at the Lord`s and India never recovered from there.
The bowling lacked teeth and India suffered badly. Such was the plight that an out-of-form Rudra Pratap Singh was flown on an SOS basis from Miami-Kris Srikkanth and Co. drew a lot of flak for this flawed choice.
Ajinkya Rahane`s impressive performances in the ODIs showed that when it comes to batting, the Men in Blue have a good bench strength. The likes of Rahane, Manoj Tiwary who scored a century against West Indies on a difficult Chennai track have done well in the limited opportunities they have got.
Virender Sehwag too made up for a lacklustre year as he slammed a maiden double century in ODIs, becoming only second batsman after Tendulkar to reach the landmark when he hit 219 against West Indies at Indore.
The Test series against West Indies witnessed Ravichandran Ashwin showing his prowess in the longer version as he snared 22 wickets in three matches and also scored a century. Ashwin`s emergence meant curtains for the time being for senior pro Harbhajan Singh who has been India`s premier tweaker for more than a decade.
Off the field, BCCI did have a torrid time. First it`s the pressure from the central government which wants the world`s richest cricket board to be affiliated as an National Sports Federation and also come under the RTI. The impasse still continues.
BCCI`s rigid stand on non-implementation of DRS has also not gone down well among the cricketing nations such as Australia, England and South Africa. The board also terminated new IPL team Kochi Tuskers Kerala for breach of agreement. Even the contract with Nimbus which had broadcasting rights for India`s matches at home as well as domestic cricket, was terminated as they were defaulters.