Kohli stands tall amidst the ruins

Kohli stands tall amidst the ruins


Virat Kohli

The insatiable Virat Kohli strengthening his status as the best batsman across all formats among the current generation and his team coming a cropper on two away tours were the main talking points in the Indian cricket scene while the sandpaper-gate incident that decimated Australia dominated global headlines this year.

Kohli kick-started the year on an astounding note personally, smashing 286 runs in a three-match series in South Africa in conditions that were extremely demanding against a pace attack that was menacing to say the least. He then ventured to England in July with a major point to prove. The last time he had been there for a Test series in 2014, he was brutally opened up by James Anderson and Co that saw him score a mere 134 runs in 10 innings. It remained a massive blot in his diamond-encrusted resume and the cricketing world’s attention was all on him. 

Aware another failure would be manna for the critics, Kohli gave space for nothing but appreciation and exaltation as he amassed 593 runs in 10 innings, hammering two centuries and three half-centuries in the process. More importantly, Kohli, who ended being Anderson’s bunny in 2014, ensured the veteran seamer would never get his scalp again.

While Kohli touched extraordinary heights, most of his pampered batting colleagues barely rose above the ordinary, as India suffered series defeats in South Africa and England. In both those countries, the Indians, thanks to the phenomenal efforts of their pacers, had wonderful chances to post series wins but with the batting standing on one and a half legs — Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara doing reasonably well — India lost 1-2 in South Africa and were drubbed 1-4 by England.

In ODIs as well, Kohli was phenomenal. Against South Africa, the 30-year-old scored a total of 558 runs in six games (three centuries and one fifty), against England 191 runs (two fifties) and then tallied 453 runs (three centuries) from five games against the West Indies at home. Kohli has extended his brilliant run in Australia too, scoring a 25th Test ton on a brutal Perth pitch. Thanks to such spellbinding efforts, he has now opened daylight between him and others in the ICC Players Rankings in both Tests and ODIs.

Another Indian who became the talk of the cricketing world was Jasprit Bumrah. The pacer with an unorthodox action, labelled a white-ball specialist, took the red-ball version by storm too to emerge as Kohli’s ace weapon. Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar too shone as Indian finally had an attack that consistently picked up 20 wickets.

On the administration front, the Committee of Administrators and BCCI continued to spar over every issue, with many feeling the former, brought in by the Supreme Court to clean up the mess in the board, has ended up causing more chaos and confusion. Despite that, the game continued to rake in the moolah with Star Sports bagging the television and digital media rights for a whopping sum of Rs 6138.1 crore (2018-2022). 

The women’s team, meanwhile, fought an ugly battle with ODI skipper Mithali Raj and T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur squabbling in public after the former was benched from the World T20 semifinal against England. The unsavoury episode and ensuing exchanges exposed the senior-junior divide and the BCCI finally appointed WV Raman amidst much drama as the coach to stabilise things.

Internationally, nothing created a storm as big as sandpaper-gate. In the third Test during Australia’s tour of South Africa, Cameron Bancroft was caught trying to tamper the ball with sandpaper hidden in his trousers.

It later emerged that vice-captain David Warner had instructed Bancroft to rough up the ball with skipper Steve Smith admitting he was aware of the malpractice. All hell then broke loose in Australia. Smith, Warner and Bancroft were sent home immediately and were subsequently banned — Smith and Warner for one year and Bancroft nine months — for tarnishing the image of Baggy Green and bringing the game to disrepute.

The incident even saw heads roll in the board while an Ethics Review found Cricket Australia to be “arrogant and controlling.” The issue has refused to temper down with Bancroft and Smith continuing the blame game in hope of gaining some sympathy.

While it may be a forgettable year for Australia, it turned out to be very memorable for Afghanistan and Ireland as they gained promotion to Tests. The dream moment ended up being a nightmare though, Afghanistan crashing inside two days to India and Ireland losing to Pakistan.

Sri Lanka, hit by corruption scandals, struggled on the pitch too while Pakistan continued to alternate between the brilliant and ordinary.

England, buoyed by series wins over India and Sri Lanka (away), have risen to second place in the ICC Test rankings and are breathing down on India.

New Zealand, following a stunning 2-1 win over Pakistan in UAE, punched above their weights yet again while West Indies and Bangladesh did well only in coloured clothing.  Finally, two titans of the game also bid adieu to the sport, England’s talismanic opener Alastair Cook and Sri Lanka’s unrelenting left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. 

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