India’s golden year: 2011 in review
Mumbai, Dec 30: The moment MS Dhoni hit Nuwan Kulasekara for a towering six over long-on on the night of April 2, a collective revelry took over the Indian streets and delighted Team India fans the world over.
2011, much like 1983, will be remembered fondly by Indian cricket fans for all time to come. It was the year when MS Dhoni’s boys won the ICC ODI World Cup after 28 long years.
The year itself began on a positive note when the touring Indian side became the first Indian team to draw a Test series (1-1) in South Africa. India then won the sole T20 match of the tour, but with South Africa winning a keenly-contested ODI series (3-2), it proved how little there was to choose between the two sides.
A memorable six weeks between mid-February to early April ensued as the Men in Blue undertook the long journey to the ODI summit. Beginning with Virender Sehwag’s blustery 175 against Bangladesh and MS Dhoni’s cracking 91* in the final against Sri Lanka, India conquered the likes of West Indies, Australia and Pakistan to win the World Cup on home soil. Even the tied game against England and the loss to South Africa in the league stage of the tournament gave Indian fans plenty to celebrate; Sachin Tendulkar blazed away to his 98th and 99th international tons respectively in those two games.
India then carried their good form to the West Indies in June and July 2011 when they beat the hosts in the lone T20 international and the five-match ODI series (3-2). Ishant Sharma bagged 22 wickets in the three Tests that followed which allowed India to win only their third Test series (1-0) in the Caribbean.
What followed was a slump. A spate of injuries derailed India’s ambitions of winning another Test series in England. With injuries to Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir at key stages of the tour, India were trounced 4-0 by a strong England side in the Pataudi Trophy played in July-August, 2011. Defeat in the Test series was followed by another dismal showing: England stamped their superiority over the Indians in the T20 (1-0) and ODI (3-0) formats as well.
However, the Indians were able to exact revenge to some extent when they swept England 5-0 in the ODI series played at home in October. A loss in the subsequent T20 match, though, ensured that England didn’t leave India without a win under their belt.
Finally, India maintained their superiority over the West Indies when they trounced the visiting Caribbean side for the second time in the year in both the Test (2-0) and ODI (4-1) formats.
If there was any one cricketer who consistently gave Sachin Tendulkar (482 runs) competition in the run-scoring department in the ICC ODI World Cup, it was Yuvraj Singh. The dashing left-hander came up with all-round performances right through the course of the tournament to finish with 362 runs and 15 wickets and was eventually declared the Man-of-the-Series at the marquee ICC event.
Depite India’s inglorious summer in England, Rahul Dravid battled like a lone warrior on that tour and helped himself to 461 runs from eight innings which included three centuries in conditions that challenged the best of batsmen; Dravid was adjudged joint Man-of-the-series (along with England’s Stuart Broad). Dravid, in fact, finished 2011 as the leading run-scorer in Tests with 1145 runs from 12 matches, 111 runs ahead of Kumar Sangakkara (1034 runs from 11 Tests).
Sachin Tendulkar went past the 50-run mark after hitting his 99th international century no less than seven times, but failed to get to his landmark 100th ton in 2011. Yet, along the way, Sachin became the first international cricketer to score 18,000 ODI and 15,000 Test runs respectively.
After some ordinary perforamnces, Virender Sehwag cracked the highest-ever ODI score when he smashed 219 off just 149 balls in the fourth ODI against the West Indies on December 8, 2011. Sehwag’s innings, only the second 200-plus score (Sachin Tendulkar had scored an unbeaten 200 in 2010) in ODI cricket, once again proved that when the maverick batsman is in form, no record is safe.
To complete the bouquet of individual performances, Harbhajan Singh broke into the 400-wicket club, MS Dhoni went past the 200-dismissal mark while VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag crossed the 8000-run mark (all in Tests) respectively.
The emergence of Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron in Tests in 2011 gives India much hope for the future. Ashwin, in just his first Test series, against the West Indies in November, bagged 22 wickets and struck a century to give evidence of his immense potential at the highest level. Yadav impressed with his pace and swing in the West Indies series while his seven-wicket haul in the recently-concluded Boxing Day Test pointed to a quality Indian pacer in the making.
On the domestic circuit, Rajasthan won the 77th edition of the Ranji Trophy by beating Baroda in January 2011. But where the Ranji Trophy landed in the hands of first-time winners, the IPL went the way of traditional heavyweights Chennai Super Kings who won the premier T20 competition for the second time in successive years in May 2011. The Chennai franchise, however, couldn’t achieve the historic double of winning the IPL as well as the Champions League Twenty20 - played between September 19 and October 9, 2011. Mumbai Indians, captained by the feisty Harbhajan Singh, ensured that the CLT20 trophy remained in Indian hands as the Mumbai franchise trounced Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final.
On a more solemn note, MAK Patuadi, former captain of the Indian Test team, passed away in Delhi on September 22, 2011 leaving cricketers and fans bereft. It was under Pataudi that India achieved their first overseas Test and series victory against New Zealand in 1968.
India may have lost the first Test Down Under but with the four-match series very much alive, the prospect of Sachin’s 100th ton still in the offing and India squaring off against England in a Test series at home later in the year, 2012 could prove to be even bigger than 2011.
Here’s wishing all fans of Indian cricket a happy and prosperous 2012!