‘ബ്ലഡി അബ്സീഷൻ’, ബ്ലഡി നല്ല ഫാസ്റ്റ് ബ lers ളർമാർ, ആ 30 മിനിറ്റ് – 2019 ലെ ഇന്ത്യൻ ക്രിക്കറ്റ് – ഹിന്ദുസ്ഥാൻ ടൈംസ്

‘ബ്ലഡി അബ്സീഷൻ’, ബ്ലഡി നല്ല ഫാസ്റ്റ് ബ lers ളർമാർ, ആ 30 മിനിറ്റ് – 2019 ലെ ഇന്ത്യൻ ക്രിക്കറ്റ് – ഹിന്ദുസ്ഥാൻ ടൈംസ്

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Translating…

For Indian cricket, this year has been nothing short of a voyage, there was a dream, there were elements, there was a story, there were characters, there was a crescendo, and yes, there was heartbreak. Shattered, plucked away, strewn away – there was a World Cup loss. There was a historic triumph against Australia in Australia – up and about, hope in the eye, purpose in the stride. These two were the two central characters, these two had two contrasting images, these two encapsulated, cricket, life, Indian psyche and everything else in between.

For Team India and for their coach, winning an ICC title is like a ‘bloody obsession’ and when Shastri thunders, you are bound to sit up and note it down – it will either be true and it will be all be a facade, but well, with this Indian team under Kohli and Shastri keep marching on, they have kept up the pace, have kept up the intensity. They have picked up the pieces of a shattered dream, for there was a dream, and it is better than having no dream at all.

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The Test triumph – Number 1 side and all that

India beat Australia in Australia

India beat Australia in Australia ( Getty Images )

So, before we talk about that dream and that heartbreak, we talk about the biggest talking point in world cricket – the resurgence, the dominance, the match-winners, the Indian pace attack. India’s home season comprised 5 matches and it was short, it was dominating. Across these five matches, India’s three spinners took 37 wickets between them and the fast bowlers bagged 59, that too in the absence of strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah. When history was made at the Eden Gardens, when the pacers had the pink ball under their control they took all the wickets – which is also a first at home. No one is debating about the best bowling attack now. So, Shastri can now chase that ‘bloody obsession’, he has a bloody good pace attack to dominate everywhere.

It has been a year of Rohit Sharma, it will be forever remembered as a synonym for prolificness. You know you have ticked all the right boxes when your biggest thrill comes when you have peeled off a century in Test cricket as an opener and this in many ways overshadows your performance in the World Cup. He has repaid the faith shown in him with big runs in an unfamiliar role in long-form cricket.

For Mayank Agarwal, it has been a year which has rewarded him for all the hard-work he put in domestic cricket. He was handed a hasty debut in Melbourne and now, as the year draws to a close, he has two double centuries under his belt, he averages 67.07 and he is India’s number 1 Test opener.

There is a reason why India end the year with 360 points in the World Test Championship points table. Virat Kohli bounces around when in the field, he has a raucous crowd to keep his side all charged up, he has batsmen notching up hundreds and he has pacers to intimidate, dominate and win matches. For Kohli, who does not want to chase an ICC title as if his life depended on it, this has been a year when he established himself as a leader, not only in Indian cricket, but his continuous statements around Test cricket has ensured, his voice resonates all around the world.

ODIs, here, there and the World Cup

The World Cup dream ended when MS Dhoni was inches short of his crease

The World Cup dream ended when MS Dhoni was inches short of his crease ( Getty Images )

MS Dhoni sprinted, MS Dhoni lunged, and MS Dhoni fell short. New Zealand triumphed, India exulted, New Zealand were through to the finals, India came back home. The World Cup, the dominance, the expectations, the Pakistan victory and the semi-final defeat. For captain Kohli, it was a matter of inches, for the fans, it was the inclement weather, for all the vulnerabilities around Indian cricket, it was that man, MS Dhoni, who was the centre of it all. He walked out of the ground, he has since been missing. There are few whispers here, few theories there, but Dhoni remains an enigma, his approach before and in the World Cup, he remains an enigma even when the year has ended.

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When the year started, Australia came visiting, they exposed the chinks in the Indian armour in ODIs. When West Indies came to round off the year, they exposed them yet again – India bat slow up front, take time in the middle overs and then accelerate. Against power strikers, this approach was not entirely successful, hence, India too adopted the modern way of smashing ‘em bowlers right through the middle phase in the second ODI against West Indies. Will this be their new way, 2019 surely ended this way.

“It is an obsession for me. I am going to chase it, with my team. This team will go down in the history of Indian cricket, in world cricket, as one of the best teams of the century.

“Okay. I’m telling you now. But we are going to chase that [ICC title], and that will be cherry on top of the cake. We are chasing it. My team, me, my management, we are chasing it. So, if you say it’s an obsession, it is a bloody obsession. Get that right.”

There was a T20I series against West Indies and this is the format India will get to target next year. Against the Calypso flavour, India adopted a way which has been alien to them – they took guard and took off. They smashed their way to over 200 runs and there was no lull in the attack. They did a West Indies on West Indies and if this is the way they are planning to rejig their approach in the shortest format, Shastri’s thundering voice could well be the driving force next year in Australia.

Bloody good fast bowlers

The resurgence of the fast bowlers has been the biggest story for Indian cricket this year

The resurgence of the fast bowlers has been the biggest story for Indian cricket this year ( Getty Images )

Everything else can wait, all the opinions can wait, Indian cricket marched ahead and the fast bowlers led them. This has been a year when the pain of the 1980s and 1990s was shunted away, when ‘the pace is pace yaar’ romanticism was India’s very own, when speed was an accomplice, when Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav won matches. The Indian team did not need to pile up massive scores on the boards, they were like the West Indies, they were like Australia, they were like Pakistan when even a substantial score was good enough.

India’s next round of Tests is away in New Zealand, and the next home Test is in February 2021. If the points table is anything to go by, they will find themselves at the World Test Championship final in June that year. Shastri will have yet another chance to fulfill his ‘bloody obsession’.

They have to win in New Zealand, in South Africa, in Australia and in England, they came close, they threatened, but, the dominance can be complete next year. 2019 is a story of the fast bowlers, it is a rhythm of the ball crashing into the stumps, crashing into the helmets, crashing into the pads. It has been a year when Andy Roberts hailed Jasprit Bumrah as the best India had ever produced. It was just that year when dreams came true, when a dream was shattered and it was a year, when another dream found its footing.

It was Indian cricket – money, talent, passion, flaws, ambition and results

Sourav Ganguly took charge as the BCCI president

Sourav Ganguly took charge as the BCCI president ( ANI Photo )

Perhaps, it made sense that Sourav Ganguly took charge as the BCCI president. Perhaps, it was meant to be this way. So, Kohli tipped his heart to the former Indian captain, he said Indian cricket is like the cycle, the process of domination was set by the man from Bengal.

“The idea is to establish yourself in the middle and we have learnt to stand up and give it back. It all started with Dada’s team and we are just carrying it forward. We are reaping the rewards for all the hard work we put in the last 3-4 years. I was thinking if they announce me as the Man of the Match, I should give it to one of the bowlers,” said Virat Kohli after the win in the Test match at Eden Gardens.

Make what you can of it, it is all a process, it is all about marching on. So this year ends, there is a sense of loss, a sense of pride and a sense of ambition. For the worth of a man is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.

In many ways, what Virat Kohli said at the end of the series against West Indies encapsulated the year for his side. “2019 has been one of the best years for Indian cricket. Apart from the 30 minutes in the World Cup, it’s been a great year. We’ll keep chasing that ICC trophy. But apart from that, the way we’ve played has been satisfying. Having a bunch of fast bowlers who can bowl out any opposition anywhere – them taking the attention away from the spinners in India is a huge achievement.”