Cricket, India: A history (2023)
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The year in a nutshell
2023: A YEAR OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
’’ Despite Numerous Statistical Highs, Including Being Ranked No.1 In All Formats, The Big Prize In Men’s Cricket Eluded The Indian Team
How would you sum up 2023 if you were an Indian cricket fan? Two words would do justice. “What if?.” 2023 was a year where the Indian men’s cricket team had two cracks at ending a 10-year wait for an ICC Trophy, but it came up short on both occasions in the WTC final at The Oval and the ODI World Cup final at Ahmedabad. And both times, it got outskilled by a familiar adversary. Australia.
What if India had picked Ashwin at the Oval in the WTC final? What if India had tried to bounce out Travis Head earlier? What if Head had nicked one of the many balls he played and missed in the first ten overs of that chase in Ahmedabad?
The loss on November 19 in Motera would scar the souls and puncture the spirits of those in the changing room more because India had played a flawless tournament till the semifinal, crushing opponents systematically, but cruelly had an off day in the game that mattered on a curiously prepared pitch that was slow and dry to start with and then changed dramatically when Australia started their chase of 240.
But to not celebrate the performances of the team, especially in the white-ball format, would be ungrateful.
The men’s team played fifty-eight white-ball games (35 ODIs and 23 T20Is) this year and ended up winning forty-two out of them (27 in ODIS and fifteen in T20Is).
ODIs, a format that is losing relevance, was given a lifeline by the men in blue, especially during a feverish World Cup campaign where captain Rohit Sharma’s thrilling assault on bowlers in the powerplay, captivated fans as it was both effective and selfless.
The skipper was unfairly criticized for his stroke in the final off Glenn Maxwell, which was pouched miraculously by Travis Head, but his 47 (31 balls) was exactly how he had batted right through the tournament, in fact right through the year.
With the heartbreak of the T20 World Cup semifinal vs England in Adelaide still fresh in his mind, the skipper had made up his mind that he was willing to buy the idea of India getting outclassed, but would not buy it if India ended up second best for want of intent. And he took it upon himself to not just stat pad but focus on giving the middle-order a cushion of runs so that they can bat deep without feeling the pressure of accelerating.
It was a template that worked perfectly in the marquee tournament. Virat Kohli played the ideal foil for Rohit’s daredevilry, anchoring chases or giving the strokeplayers around him like KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer the freedom to go big without the worries of the team suffering a blowout. He logged six ODI hundreds in 2023 with three of them coming in the World Cup, none more important than the one he scored in the semifinal at the Wankhede Stadium against perennial nemesis New Zealand which made him the lone man to get to 50 ODI tons and surpass the record held by the great Sachin Tendulkar. It was a pity that his 765 runs in 11 matches did not result in a trophy more significant than the player of the tournament prize.
The same can be said about the skipper. Rohit was one of four Indian batters to log over 1000 ODI runs along with Shubman Gill (1584), Kohli (1377) and Rahul (1060) and his approach can best be established by the fact that he hit 67 of India’s 250 ODI maximums in 2023 with 31 of them coming in the World Cup, a majority of those hits coming against top bowlers in the powerplay.
How you wish you had an intent meter sometimes. India’s bowlers were not too bad either. How’s this for a factoid? Arshdeep Singh’s 5-37 at Johannesburg against South Africa last month was the eighth instance of an Indian bowler picking a five-wicket haul in 2023. Mohammed Shami, who had a dream World Cup campaign (24 wickets) produced three of them in the tournament. He also bagged one in Mohali vs Australia just before the World Cup started. Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Ravindra Jadeja were the others to make that distinguished list.
Siraj produced a spell for the ages in the Asia Cup final vs Sri Lanka in Colombo with his 6-21 including a four-wicket over, a first by an Indian in ODIs. He was also lethal in the World Cup with the new ball, invariably producing an early breakthrough. What if India had not changed their plan and gave him the new ball in the final too instead of bringing him on in the17th over?
It was a story of What if for the women too. They choked like they did in the Commonwealth Games final against who else, but Australia in the semifinal of the T20 World Cup at Newlands when skipper Harmanpreet Kaur was run out with her bat getting stuck in the turf. India needed forty off thirty-two balls with six wickets in hand and fell short by five runs.
What if Kaur had managed to ground her bat? But Kaur did find some well-deserved cheer later in the year as her team in the inaugural WPL, Mumbai Indians, went on to clinch the trophy. She also captained India to memorable Test triumphs over England and Australia in Mumbai late in the year. While big trophies in white-ball cricket eludes the ladies, they tasted success in the Asian Games, winning the gold medal and the under-19 team led by Shafali Verma clinched the World Cup.
May be the continued growth and success of the WPL, will see more talented players coming through the system.
INDIAN MEN’S TEAM’S SCHEDULE IN 2024
TESTS: 1 vs SA in SA; 5 vs Eng in Ind; 2 vs Bangladesh in Ind 3 vs NZ in Ind; 4 vs Aus in Aus
T20IS: 3 vs Afg in Ind; 3 vs SL in SL; T20 WC in USA and WI
ODIS: 3 vs SL in SL
World Test Championship
The road to the final
The road to the WTC final, for India and for Australia, 2023