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    Yearender 2012: India's annus horribilis

    The Indian cricket team put up a lacklustre show in 2012 and failed to win any significant series or tournament in any of the three formats.

    The Indian cricket team put up a lacklustre show in 2012 and failed to win any significant series or tournament in any of the three formats.

    The Indian cricket team, which is in a transition phase, put up a lacklustre show in 2012 and failed to win any significant series or tournament in any of the three formats - Tests, ODIs and T20s. This came as a rude shock after the highs of 2011 when India became the No. 1 Test team and lifted the World Cup.

    The chinks in the armour were exposed in the latter half of 2011 when India were drubbed 0-4 in a Test series in England and things turned from bad to worse when Australia meted out the same treatment in early 2012. But the final nail in the coffin came when England visited India for a four-Test series in November and beat the hosts 2-1, thereby ending their dominance on home soil.

    In ODIs, India failed to qualify for the finals of the tri-nation Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia and the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. The only bright spot was thrashing Sri Lanka 4-1 in their backyard. As far as T20Is go, India couldn't make it to the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 for the third time in a row and were pipped in close encounters against New Zealand, England and Pakistan.

    The year 2012 will always be remembered as the year which brought the curtains down on some of the most illustrious careers. Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from international cricket after the Test series in Australia, while VVS Laxman called time, with immediate effect, just before the home Test against New Zealand. Sachin Tendulkar bade adieu to ODIs on December 23, thus bringing the cricket-mad country to a grinding halt.

    Test matches:
    India played nine Tests this year; they won three, lost five and drew one. India started the year with the Sydney Test against Australia, having lost the first Test at the MCG by 122 runs, and proceeded to lose by an innings and 68 runs. In the third Test at Perth, David Warner’s blistering century and Ben Hilfenhaus’s eight-wicket haul sank India by an innings and 37 runs. The hosts notched up another massive victory in the fourth Test at Adelaide. Virat Kohli scored his first Test century, the only one by an Indian in the Test series, but couldn’t stave off a 298-run pounding.

    Barring Kohli, there was nothing much to write home about India’s dismal performance. India’s much-vaunted batting troika – Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman – failed to measure up to the expectations and bowling looked bereft of fire, venom and imagination. Dravid’s once impregnable defence was breached five times in six innings while Laxman looked unsure of his off stump and kept getting out in the slip and gully cordon.

    In their next Test series, India comfortably defeated New Zealand 2-0 at home in August-September. In Hyderabad, Cheteshwar Pujara made a resounding comeback to international cricket with a splendid 159 while R Ashwin bagged 12 scalps to give India victory by an innings and 115 runs. In Bangalore, Kohli scored 103 and 51 not out and Pragyan Ojha took seven wickets as India won by five wickets.

    Despite India winning the Test series, the biggest talking point was Tendulkar being cleaned up three times in the series playing across the line. His scores were 19, 17 and 27. Former Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar wrote in his column that Tendulkar’s reflexes had waned considerably and that he was not able to pick the line of the ball quickly.

    When England came to India, the buzz word was ‘revenge’. A few Indian players made no bones while asserting that they would look to rout England 4-0 to settle the score for the humiliation England inflicted upon them last summer. India started off the series on a buoyant note by decimating England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. Despite Alastair Cook’s bravura performance, few could have seen what was in store in Mumbai.

    Monty Panesar, who was left out in the first Test, along with Cook and Kevin Pietersen scripted a memorable victory for England on a minefield. Panesar snaffled 11 wickets in the Test, dismissing Tendulkar in both innings, while Cook (122) and Pietersen (186) blasted excellent centuries and England romped home by 10 wickets.

    Before the Kolkata Test, there was much commotion about MS Dhoni’s fall-out with the pitch curator over the nature of the pitch but England put all this behind and rolled out a clinical performance to outclass India by seven wickets. Cook (190) scored his third century of the series in a row while Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Panesar showed their superiority over Indian batsmen to orchestrate a stunning victory which gave England a 2-1 lead. The last Test at Nagpur ended in a tame draw and England won the Test series in India after a hiatus of 28 years. This was India’s first defeat in a Test series at home in eight years. Disarray had set in.

    India featured in 16 ODIs in 2012 and won nine, lost six while one match against Sri Lanka at Adelaide ended as a tie. Barring a couple of matches in the CB Series, India’s performance was mediocre and Dhoni’s rotation policy didn’t work. Though Kohli played an outstanding innings of unbeaten 133 off 86 balls against Sri Lanka at Hobart as India chased down 321 in 36.4 overs to keep India’s hopes alive to make it to the finals, Sri Lanka pipped Australia by nine runs at MCG in their last group match to make the cut.

    India thumped Pakistan (six wickets) and Sri Lanka (50 runs) in the Asia Cup but an unlikely defeat to Bangladesh (five wickets) queered their pitch. Tendulkar scored his much-hyped 100th hundred, which came off 147 balls, in the match against Bangladesh and India set a target of 290. Shakib Al Hasan and skipper Mushfiqur Rahim played sprightly cameos as the hosts overhauled the total in 49.2 overs to take some sheen off Tendulkar’s incredible feat.

    Kohli had a tremendous series as he unfurled two centuries, 108 against Sri Lanka and 183 vs Pakistan, and a half-century (66 vs Bangladesh). His hundred against Pakistan is regarded as one of the best innings by an Indian batsman in the ODIs. Riding on his scintillating 183 off 148 balls, India attained an imposing target of 330 in 47.5 overs.

    Kohli continued his dream run in the ODIs in the next series as India visited Sri Lanka and demolished the hosts 4-1 in the five-match series. He cracked 296 runs at 74.00 with two centuries as India beat the hosts by the margin of five wickets, six wickets and 20 runs respectively.

    The emergence of Kohli was the biggest plus point for India. Though he has been performing consistently in ODIs over the last two years, 2012 year saw him graduating to the next level as he showed signs of maturity, to go with his uninhibited audacity, to take up the baton of India's premier batsman. The ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year was a due prize.

    India played 13 T20s in 2012, winning seven and losing six. The biggest disappointment for India was that they couldn’t make it to the semi-finals of the World T20 despite winning four out of their five matches in the tournament. India beat Afghanistan and England by 23 and 90 runs respectively to top Group A but a crushing licking against Australia by nine wickets in the Super Eights ruined their net run-rate. Though India bounced back to get the better of Pakistan and South Africa in the next two matches, it wasn’t sufficient to make the cut. In their last match, India needed to restrict South Africa under 121, after they had posted 152 batting first, to qualify for the semis but the Proteas spoiled their party though they lost a humdinger by one-run. Again, Dhoni’s defensive field placing (despite the fact that they needed to restrict South Africa below 121) and slapdash bowling changes came in for heavy criticism.

    Apart from the World T20, India lost a few close encounters which they should have sealed - to New Zealand by one run; to England off the last ball when Eoin Morgan hit a six; to Pakistan when Shoaib Malik hit a six in the final over.

    Kohli, who dominated, the run charts in the ODIs and Tests for India, was India’s highest run-getter in this format as well as he ran up 444 runs in 13 matches @ 40.36 at a SR of 133.33. Apart from him, no other Indian batsman was consistent though Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina played the odd breezy innings.