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Rediff.com  » Cricket » 2015 Rewind: Kohli leads new dawn of Indian cricket

2015 Rewind: Kohli leads new dawn of Indian cricket

December 26, 2015 16:42 IST

- Virat Kohli emerged triumphant in Sri Lanka in his first full-fledged series as the Indian Test captain before he led India to an emphatic 3-0 series win at home against World No. 1 South Africa, who were made to taste an overseas loss after nine years.

- The IPL continued to churn out on and off field drama with franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals suspended from the T20 league for two years for the involvement of their key officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra in betting-related activities during the sixth edition of the IPL, in 2013.

- Controversy followed Indian cricket off the field as Shashank Manohar returned as the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India replacing the under-fire Narayanswami Srinivasan.

- The year also saw 138-year-old cricket history being rewritten at the Adelaide Oval when Australia and New Zealand played with a pink ball in the first-ever Day-Night Test.

- Cricket, however, lost one of its voices after former Australia captain Richie Benaud died on April 10 at the age of 84 post battling skin cancer, prompting a flood of tributes from around the world, but in cricket, like in life 'the show must go on'.

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: India captain Virat Kohli (centre) poses the Freedom Trophy after winning the Test series against South Africa. Photograph: BCCI

Indian cricket's fortunes ebbed and flowed in 2015 with Virat Kohli successfully leading the national side in Tests and Mahendra Singh Dhoni appearing to be losing his midas touch, while in off the field drama Shashank Manohar returned as the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India.

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Kohli, who had already taken charge of the Test team in December last year following Dhoni's surprising exit after the Sydney Test, led the Indian side with aplomb.

The Delhi batsman not only won his maiden Test as captain in his first full-fledged series as the leader of the Indian side in Sri Lanka but also went on to defeat the Islanders on home turf after 22 years to register a 2-1 series win.

The young leader then made history after he led India to a 3-0 series win at home against World No. 1 South Africa, who were made to taste an overseas loss after nine years.

But the four-match series was surrounded by pitch-talk after two games finished in under three days as Indian spinners created havoc in Mohali and Nagpur.

Though the BCCI, Indian management and captain Kohli played down the debate over turning pitches, the International Cricket Council rated the Jamtha track as "poor" and gave it an official warning.

Controversy followed Indian cricket off the field as well when the board finally dethroned under-fire Narayanswami Srinivasan as the ICC chairman and newly-elected BCCI president Manohar took charge of the post for the remaining period.

IMAGE: BCCI president Shashank Manohar, left, with secretary Anurag Thakur. Photograph: PTI

The decision to remove Srinivasan was taken at the BCCI's 86th Annual General Meeting in Mumbai, virtually signalling the end of his hold over Indian cricket.

Earlier, the Vidarbha-based lawyer Manohar's re-election to the top post in the world's most powerful cricket board was a smooth transition of power after the unfortunate demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya.

The Indian Premier League continued to churn out on and off field drama with franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals suspended from the cash-rich T20 league for two years for the involvement of their key officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra in betting-related activities during the sixth edition of the IPL, in 2013.

Meiyappan, the former Team Principal of CSK, and RR co-owner Kundra were suspended for life for indulging in betting and bringing the IPL and the game into disrepute. The Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha-led committee declared the quantum of punishment on the officials and the teams.

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But the players of the two teams were not made to suffer even as they had to split ways with new inductees Pune and Rajkot pitching for the big guns from the suspended sides.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Photograph: BCCI

If Pune got the prized catch in Dhoni then Rajkot bagged Suresh Raina, the two CSK veterans, who had seen the champion side win three IPL titles.

More controversies spilled over to state units as the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association not only had to host a Test match -- fourth and final match of the South Africa series -- under the supervision of Justice Mukul Mudgal, but also faced alleged charges of fraud and money embezzlement from various quarters.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government accused DDCA of corruption and also dragged former president and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley into the mess. The plot thickened when the Kirti Azad-led dissident faction, including Bishan Singh Bedi, accused the state body and Jaitley of either misusing funds or not having acted on the alleged wrongdoings.

All the parties have either taken the legal route or are mulling to go through the court corridors.

On the field, the year belonged to Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was not only instrumental in getting the Sri Lankan series win, but also made life miserable for top South African stars like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla on home pitches. He finished the year with 62 wickets in nine Tests.

Ravichandran Ashwin

IMAGE: India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Photograph: BCCI

If Ashwin established himself as the premier off-spinner of the country then Ravindra Jadeja made a hard-fought comeback to international cricket after bagging 38 wickets in four Ranji games for Saurashtra.

The Indian pacers did not have much of an impact this year as Ishant Sharma did bowl well in patches and Mohammad Shami remained unavailable for most of the year with injury.

Shami though did help the Men in Blue to get into the semi-finals of the ICC ODI World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Dhoni-led India were beaten in the last four after being outplayed by eventual winners Australia in a lop-sided semi-final.

The Michael Clarke-led Australia went on to clinch their fifth World Cup title after humbling first-time finalists New Zealand in the summit clash at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground.

IMAGE: Captain Michael Clarke (centre) holds aloft the World Cup trophy as his teammates celebrate after beating New Zealand in the final at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

It was also a fairytale ending for Clarke, who bid adieu to his ODI career. The 33-year-old batsman dedicated the historic triumph to the late Phillip Hughes, who was felled by a bouncer and died after a Sheffield Shield game in Sydney last year.

Dhoni, though, was left disappointed after failing to take India to their third world title after the World T20 in 2007 and the 2011 50-over edition, but had a lot in store for him in the form of IPL.

Having led CSK to an IPL title thrice in 2010, 2011 and 2014, Dhoni once again showed exemplary leadership to take the yellow-brigade to the final against Mumbai Indians. They were outplayed in the summit clash, but remain the most consistent team in the seven editions so far.

But losing the T20 and ODI series to South Africa on home soil did not serve well for once 'captain cool' Dhoni, who seemed to have lost the midas touch.

Indian cricket also saw the departure of two great match-winners after swing king Zaheer Khan and swashbuckler Virender Sehwag called time on their illustrious careers after being out-of-favour for quite a while.

IMAGE: Zaheer Khan, after announcing his retirement from international cricket. Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

While left-arm pacer Zaheer, 37, served India for 14 long years, bagging a total of 593 wickets in 92 Tests and 200 ODIs, Sehwag also brought curtains to his 14-year-long career, amassing 8000 plus runs each in 104 Tests and 251 ODIs.

- I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up: Zaheer

There were retirements aplenty on the international front as well with Sri Lanka's legendary duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara calling it a day from ODIs after the World Cup. Others in the list to retire after World Cup were New Zealand's Daniel Vettori, Clarke and Mitchell Johnson.

Some of the other international players to retire this year were Misbah-ul-Haq (ODIs), Shahid Afridi (Test, ODI), Ryan Harris (all formats), Shane Watson (ODI), Ian Bell (ODI) and Brendan McCullum (all formats).

The year also saw 138-year-old cricket history being rewritten at the Adelaide Oval when Australia and New Zealand played with a pink ball in the first-ever Day-Night Test.

IMAGE: The sun sets over the Adelaide Oval during day one of the first-ever Day-night Test match between Australia and New Zealand at Adelaide Oval in November. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Australia won the match by seven wickets as the packed crowd cheered for the players and the ICC believes that the experiment is here to stay.

In the Ashes action, England regained the Urn after wrapping up a spectacular victory over Australia on the third morning of the fourth Test -- a year after they were handed a 5-0 drubbing Down Under. With this win, England beat Australia in four consecutive home series -- their best since 1896.

The year also marked the return of international cricket in Pakistan since the dastardly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in March 2009 at Lahore.

Zimbabwe toured the South Asian country for two T20s and three-match ODI series in May.

Tainted pacer Mohammad Aamir also returned to competitive action after serving time in prison and a five-year ban for his role in the spot-fixing scandal during Pakistan's tour of England in 2010.

The game also saw the return of Golden Oldies when Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar and Australian legend Shane Warne brought T20 cricket to the baseball fields of the US.

IMAGE: Muttiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and Wasim Akram acknowledge the crowd after the first Cricket All-Star T20 match in New York on Saturday. Photograph: Mohammed Jaffer/Snapsindia

Billed as the "Cricket All-Stars", players such as Brian Lara, Wasim Akram, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Curtly Ambrose, Jonty Rhodes, Muttiah Muralitharan and Allan Donald joined forces with Warne and Tendulkar in New York, Los Angeles and Houston.

- All-Stars PHOTOS: 'Celebrating cricket' as legends turn back the clock

Cricket, however, lost one of its voices after former Australia captain Richie Benaud died on April 10 at the age of 84 post battling skin cancer, prompting a flood of tributes from around the world, but in cricket, like in life 'the show must go on'.

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