“It’s been one of the best years for Indian cricket to be honest. Apart from playing the cricket that we did for half an hour in the World Cup, it’s been a beautiful year."
Virat Kohli summed up 2019 for Indian cricket succinctly, admitting to the disappointment of the World Cup exit while not forgetting the highs in Test cricket.
Let’s take a look at the year that was, across formats, for Indian cricket.
India in Tests
Played 8, Won 7, Draw 1.
The year began on a historic note with India drawing with Australia in Sydney to seal a historic series win down under. India had threatened to do well abroad with odd wins in South Africa and England over the previous years, but a consistent performance kept evading them. That came in Australia, where India won 2-1.
Incredibly, that drawn game was the only Test India failed to win in the year. They swept every series that followed; West Indies in West Indies 2-0, followed by home wins against South Africa (3-0) and Bangladesh (2-0). No wonder they’re sitting comfortably on top of the ICC World Test Championships with 360 points.
India also showed penchant for trying out new things in Test cricket this year, especially with Sourav Ganguly taking over as president of the BCCI. They made their day-night Test debut successfully, beating Bangladesh in a little over 2 days at Kolkata. They also tried out a new opener in Rohit Sharma, pushing him from the middle order. Rohit has begun well, scoring three centuries including a double-ton, against South Africa.
The story of the year in Test cricket, though, is the performance of the pacers. Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav form perhaps the best pace unit in world cricket currently. Even when Bumrah was absent after the tour of West Indies, the other three pacers outshone spinners even at home! As Kohli said, them managing to take the headlines from spinners in India speaks a lot about their rise.
Shami was India’s highest wicket taker in 2019 Tests, with 33 scalps from 8 matches. He’s followed by Ishant (25 from 6) and Umesh (23 from 4).
In another promising sign for the future, India’s top run-getter in 2019 Tests was Mayank Agarwal (754 runs from 8 matches), followed by Ajinkya Rahane (642) and Kohli (612).
As always, the real Test will come abroad. India are slated to play Tests in New Zealand and Australia in 2020, with no Test at home.
India in ODIs
Played 28, Won 19, Loss 8, NR 1
India will always remember 2019 in ODIs for the disappointment of the World Cup. As Kohli said, half an hour of madness left the team reeling at 5 for 3 in the semifinal against New Zealand. They managed to get close, but it will still so far. That’s the story of India’s World Cup campaign.
India were one of the favourites for the tournament and seemed in good form leading to the knockouts too. But one bad game is all it takes to dash hopes, as India found out.
With the next World Cup four years away, priority for the format takes a backseat. India played only two ODI series after the World Cup, both against West Indies. India won both; 2-0 in West Indies and 2-1 at home.
India’s performances in the format have been driven by Rohit and Kohli. Rohit tops the batting charts with 1490 runs from 27 innings. It includes five centuries in the World Cup! Kohli was not too far behind, with 1377 runs from 25 innings.
India’s search over the next few months and years would be around good middle order batsmen. Shreyas Iyer seems to be the one to fill that space, while Rishabh Pant has been on and off.
The bowling, though, is heavily dependent on Bumrah, as was evident in the latest series against West Indies.
It’s not official yet, but it’s also highly likely that India has seen the last of a legend in MS Dhoni, at least in the ODI format. Coach Ravi Shastri recently said Dhoni is not keen on one-dayers, which means a massive era has ended on a silent note.
India in T20Is
Played 16, Won 9, Lost 7
“We will keep chasing the ICC Trophy. It’s something this team deserves. It should be an accumulation of all the hard work that we’ve put in over the last few years."
The next part of Kohli’s assessment of 2019 gives us a sneak-peek into what India are nearly desperate to achieve in 2020. The T20 World Cup in Australia.
India have blown hot and cold in this format, and are in the process of identifying a working approach as well as team combination. They have often struggled batting first, not knowing what a good target to set is. Like in ODIs, they are heavily dependent on Kohli and Rohit, their top scorers in the format, and Bumrah’s bowling.
India have still managed to win more than lose, but they’ll be after consistency. Each series has been a platform to test different combinations in their bid for the elusive ICC Trophy. India are scheduled to play 8 T20Is before the IPL, which will only increase closer to the T20 World Cup in October-November. Expect T20 to be the central focus of Indian cricket in the next year.