World Cup Glory And The Virat Kohli Era: Indian Cricket In The Decade Gone By
As always, Indian cricket was the biggest eyeball-grabber in sports in India in the decade coming to an end.
It has been a decade of decadence for Indian cricket as the men's team scaled new heights, with the Test team especially breaking records and setting new standards. From World Cup glory at the Wankhede Stadium in 2011 to holding the Test mace for three years in a row, Indian cricket fans had plenty to cheer for in the decade gone by. The team faced its fair share of lows as well, but overall, it would be fair to say that Indian cricket rose in prominence in the last ten years.
Here is a look at the highlights of Indian cricket in the decade.
The 2011 World Cup
The year 2011 saw cricket's seminal tournament return to India, giving the home team the biggest chance at achieving ultimate glory since the heartbreak of the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa. The 2007 World Cup spelt disaster for India as they exited early following defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. MS Dhoni was tasked with leading the team after that and he built around the existing pillars of the team and added youth, energy and athleticism to the side.
India started their 2011 campaign with a thrashing of co-hosts Bangladesh and won all their group stage matches barring a tie with England and a solitary defeat to South Africa. In the quarter-finals, Yuvraj Singh's all-round show powered India to victory over Australia.
India were up against arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-finals. Sachin Tendulkar scored a streaky knock of 85 and despite Wahab Riaz's five-wicket haul, India posted a total of 260/9. A fine bowling performance saw India bowl Pakistan out for 231, taking them to the final.
India faced Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankhede stadium. Mahela Jayawardene scored a defiant century, giving India a daunting target of 275.
India's chase started ominously as they lost Virender Sehwag early. Tendulkar did not last very long either. But then Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni laid down anchor and stitched together a 109-run stand before the former fell just three runs short of a historic century.
MS Dhoni, who promoted himself above the in-form Yuvraj Singh for the match, played a blistering knock of 91 off 79 deliveries, proving at the highest stage his credentials as a deadly finisher. Very aptly, the skipper hit a six over long-on to seal a famous win as India won the World Cup for the first time since 1983.
2013 Champions Trophy
Shikhar Dhawan starred with two centuries in three matches in the group stages as India beat South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies in the tournament being held in England and Wales. Dhawan top-scored for India again as they beat Sri Lanka in the semi-finals to book a place in the final against England.
The final was shortened to a 20-over affair due to rain and Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja helped India to a total of 129. Defending a low target, India put on a brilliant display on the field to restrict the home side to 124 and win the thrilling final by just five runs. The tournament will be remembered as a showcase of India's focus on fitness and athleticism on the field, something that came to define the team for the rest of the decade.
Sachin Tendulkar Bids Farewell
Having scored his 100th international century, Sachin Tendulkar finally brought down the curtains on his career as a cricketer. Tendulkar's last match - a Test against West Indies on November 16, 2013 - was played at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, his home ground. He scored 74 in his final knock and when he was dismissed, he walked off to applaud. Tendulkar, having played his 200th Test, gave an emotional farewell speech at the end of the match. The legendary batsman finished his career with 15,921 runs in Tests with 51 centuries and 18,426 runs in ODIs with 49 tons. He remains the highest run-scorer in Tests and ODIs and holds the record for most centuries in both formats.
Enter, Virat Kohli
When a prolific run-scorer of Sachin Tendulkar's pedigree retires, it is expected that a replacement of that calibre is not going to be found any time soon. But where he left off, Virat Kohli picked up. The 2008 U-19 World Cup winning captain took some time to settle into the national team, but once he found his footing, he also grew an insatiable appetite for runs. Virat Kohli smashed records across all formats of the game and made scoring centuries look easy.
In Tests, Kohli amassed 7,202 runs with 27 centuries. In ODIs, he has a total of 11609 runs, of which 11129 came in this decade. With 43 ODI centuries, only Sachin Tendulkar boasts of more ODI tons than him. He also developed his game as a master chaser and boasts of the most centuries while chasing in ODIs.
Kohli also took India to new heights in Test cricket after taking over captaincy in 2014, while also breaking several individual records as captain.
Even in T20Is, despite not scoring a century, he established himself as a prolific run-getter, finishing the decade with the joint-highest number of runs in the shortest format of the game along with compatriot Rohit Sharma.
India grew into a dominant force in Test cricket in the latter half of the decade, winning the ICC Test Mace in 2017 and retaining it ever since. While Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara piled on the majority of runs for India, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja rose in stature and terrorised teams at home especially. Another factor in India's rise in the longest format of the game has been the focus on fast bowlers putting in match-winning efforts, and with an arsenal of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, India now pose a significant pace threat.
The Indian Test team finished the decade having registered its record win-streak in the format, winning the last seven matches in a row. The Kohli-led side also won the Test series in Australia in 2018-19, the first time that India toppled the home side Down Under.
India's last Test in the decade was also a historic first. While day-night Tests debuted in 2015, India always shied away from playing the longest format under lights. But, on November 22, Kolkata's Eden Gardens played host to India's first ever pink-ball affair as India beat Bangladesh in a much-hyped match, with Virat Kohli gracing the occasion with yet another century.
'Dadagiri' At The BCCI
Sourav Ganguly had once led Indian cricket out of its darkest days when he took over as captain when India were suffering from the match-fixing scandal and there was a general lack of trust in Indian cricket. As this decade came to an end, Ganguly has once again taken over the reins with the BCCI under scrutiny for graft.
Reeling under allegations of corruption, the Supreme Court on January 30, 2017 appointed the Committee of Administrators (COA) to look after the administration of the BCCI and implement the Lodha Committee reforms. The Board held elections in 2019 and Sourav Ganguly was elected the new President. The election meant that the BCCI had its first elected President in over two years and it also marked the end of the COA.
Ganguly of course made his presence felt straight away, organising India's first day-night Test match from out of the blue within a month of taking office.
With the BCCI already established as one of the most powerful cricket boards, it will be interesting to see where Ganguly takes Indian cricket in the 2020s.
Poor performance in ICC Tournaments
While India had their share of highs, the decade also saw some frustrating lows, none more so than their poor show in major tournaments. Apart from the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy, India played in seven ICC tournaments, including two World Cups and four World T20s. India failed to make the final in six of these tournaments, and even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, they lost the final to Pakistan.
India did win three of the five Asia Cups held in the decade, but their performances in tournaments still left something to be desired.
The Indian Premier League
The Indian Premier League, or the IPL, grew tremendously in value and is the biggest T20 league in the world, despite the emergence of several such leagues around the globe. The decade saw Mumbai Indians dominate the IPL, winning the tournament four times, while Chennai Super Kings emerged champions thrice.
The IPL was not free of controversies though, with CSK and Rajasthan Royals being suspended from the league for two years for their role in a match-fixing and betting scandal.
The Women In Blue
It was a good decade for the Indian women's team as well, with Mithali Raj leading the side to the final of the 2017 Women's World Cup. Players like Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana also went about making a mark in Australia's Women's Big Bash League.
India finished the decade with a 2-1 ODI series win against West Indies, their 31st series victory in the 50-over format between 2010 and 2019.
All in all, it was a memorable time for Indian cricket, and with the side leading the table in the first season of the World Test Championship and the 2020 T20 World Cup and 2023 World Cup scheduled to be held in India, fans of the 'Men in Blue' have plenty to look forward to in the decade to come.