• Ollie Godden

A Year In-dia Review: King Kohli and Splendid Sharma shine

India enjoyed a relatively positive year across all three formats in 2019. The year which started with a ODI series victory against Australia Down Under preceded a loss in their own backyard against the same opposition a few months later, but limited-over series victories against New Zealand, Bangladesh, South Africa and West Indies followed. Their performance at the World Cup excited until their disappointing semi-final exit at the hands of the Black Caps.

With the red ball, they consolidated top position in the World Test Championship with three series sweeps and became the first team to post four straight innings victories.

With so much to dissect, Zenith Vaghasiya reflects on the highs and lows for India in 2019:

Captain Kohli is so often the man that delivers. He was unsurprisingly awarded Man of the Match when he put the West Indies to the sword with a score of 85 from 81 balls last week, and despite falling with his side 30 runs from victory, the bludgeoning performance to seal the series win was yet another reminder that Kohli is the master of the chase. When his side are chasing scores in excess of 300, Kohli averages 62.25. His average in successful run chases rockets even highter to 96.56. Throughout 2019 he has shone with the bat, and if India are to be successful through 2020 he will need to remain a cut above.

2019 was a golden year for another Indian batsman - Rohit Sharma - who thrived in all three formats. His pairing with Kohli, KL Rahul and Mayank Aggarwal was flawless, and he rarely missed out on a big score when he got going. He scored the highest number of runs as an opener across all formats which is no small feat. Sharma ended the year with 2442 runs for India in 47 innings across all three formats, marginally behind the Indian captain. It is no surprise that Sharma finished as Man of the Series against West Indies with scores of 36, 159 and 63 in the ODI series.

The greatest setback for many Indian fans was their performance at the World Cup. Despite a slow start, the young team started gaining momentum and were the team to beat at the semi-final stage, before they were finally beaten by New Zealand.

Some would say it was an achievement that India even made it to the semi-final, but a poor outing from the top order did not help their cause on that fateful day at Old Trafford. One of the top finishers in the world, ex-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, could not carry his side home and was run out in the 49th over, which would then lead to a 6-month break for the senior player.

Speculation over his return have been rife throughout the year, with Dhoni only responding by adding more mystery to the situation. He refrained from commenting until the turn of the year. On a more positive note, young Indian players have been flourishing throughout the year. Whenever there was an injury concern, or a replacement, a young talented player seemed to stand out. Mayank Aggarwal’s development that started in 2018, has now helped him to a much better average of 68.54 this year.

Amongst the Indian quicks, Jasprit Bumrah’s performance in the West Indies was a sight to behold, picking up 13 wickets in 2 Test matches, including a marvellous hat-trick. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami took their chances in several games as well, with Shami being the highest wicket taker for India in ODI’s and Tests in 2019.

Off the field, the addition of Sourav Ganguly as the new BCCI president also came as a major boost late in the year. He kicked off his tenure by overseeing the successful pink ball Test in Kolkata, which was sold out for the first two days. The ex-captain maintained that one of his better innings is yet to come, and his experience in the game will provide much needed stability to the governance of Indian cricket.

In 2020, a short Sri Lanka series awaits the bright Indian side. Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan will be making a return from injury and will hope to feature in the three T20Is. This is followed by a tour of New Zealand and visits from Australia and South Africa before the main event of the year, the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.

India will go into the competition as strong contenders. The biggest question on Indian lips is whether MS Dhoni will be back to help his side through the competition, but there is no doubting it would be a fitting way for the veteran to sign off a stellar career.

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