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2015: Indian cricket went from despair to deliverance

December 17, 2015 09:38 IST

Test series victories over Sri Lanka and South Africa, says Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com, ensured Virat Kohli could justify the team's failures earlier in the year.

 India's Captain Virat Kohli celebrates victory in the third Test against South Africa at Nagpur. Photograph: BCCI

IMAGE: India's Captain Virat Kohli celebrates victory in the third Test against South Africa at Nagpur. Photograph: BCCI

Six months of despair, half a year of hope!

The best way to sum up Indian cricket's fortunes in 2015.

While things went from bad to worse early this year, the second half witnessed an upsurge, both in performance and results.

'They (India) don't believe they can win. It is the only way to explain this kind of wayward performance,' Sunil Gavaskar said on the Star Sports television channel during India's tour Down Under.

India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) and Virat Kohli attend a training session

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli attend a training session. Photograph: Philip Brown/Reuters

The expectation of a first-ever series win on Australian soil meant the Indian think-tank did everything right when it came to planning. The team left early, had plenty of time to acclimatize to the conditions and played a couple of practice matches.

When it was time to deliver, the visitors faltered.

It wasn't like the 4-0 whitewash India suffered on the previous visit, but neither was it an improvement.

Australia had little trouble pocketing the opening two Tests in Adelaide and Brisbane, and even though the next two matches -- in Melbourne and Sydney -- ended in draws, at no point did Team India looked like winning.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni quit Test cricket before the fourth Test and Virat Kohli took over as captain of the Indian Test side.

Steve Smith of Australia gestures that Ravindra Jadeja of India is out

IMAGE: Steve Smith gestures that Ravindra Jadeja is out as they wait for the third umpire referral during the World Cup semi-final in Sydney. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The change of format did not witness a change in fortunes, as the team finished last in the tri-nation series -- which also involved England -- that followed.

It wasn't exactly the best preparation ahead of their World Cup defence.

Dhoni and Co began the World Cup campaign in emphatic manner, winning seven straight matches. The captain promptly justified the lousy performances earlier.

'We didn't win a single game, but I felt the players were learning what really needs to be done,' Dhoni said after India comfortably topped its group, which had minnows the UAE, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and South Africa, all of whom India defeated.

A billion Indian hopes surfaced -- a title defence seemed a possibility.

But despair was round the corner. Australia was the nemesis yet again, beating India by 95 runs in the semi-final en route to a fifth title.

Kumar Sangakkara shakes hands with the Indians in his final Test innings in Colombo

IMAGE: Kumar Sangakkara, greeted by the Indian cricketers after his dismissal in his final Test innings in Colombo. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Back home, the Justice Lodha Committee Report on the 2013 IPL betting scandal re-opened a can of worms, one that resulted in the suspension for two years of the competition's successful franchises, the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals -- and a life ban on CSK official Gurunath Meiyappan and Royals co-owner Raj Kundra.

The first half of the year ended on a disastrous note with India's failure to win the solitary Test in Bangladesh.

The team's fortunes changed for the better from July.

A second-string side, led by Ajinkya Rahane, had little difficulty winning the ODI series in Zimbabwe.

In his first full series as skipper, Virat Kohli added a milestone moment to his fledgling captaincy.

A come from behind 2-1 victory was the first time in 23 years that India had won a Test series in Sri Lanka.

Indian players celebrate a South African wicket

IMAGE: The Indians celebrate a South African wicket on Day 5 of the Delhi Test. Photograph: BCCI

Then came the year's biggest success story, a comprehensive 3-0 Test series win over the top-ranked South Africans.

It wasn't just the one-sided scoreline, but the fact that the visitors never looked capable of turning it around.

Had it not been for rain in Bangalore, India would have won 4-0, so dominant were they in the series.

The South Africans had not lost a Test series abroad in nine years and were undefeated on Indian soil in 11 years.

It ensured that Kohli could justify the team's failures earlier in the year just as Dhoni did during the World Cup.

'It all started in Australia because of the kind of belief with which we went there and the kind of cricket that we played there. It gave us the confidence that we can beat any side in the world,' Kohli said after the fourth Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

For once, no one was complaining.

A year that witnessed one catastrophe followed by another to begin with ended with five consecutive Test victories.

Bring on 2016!

Bikash Mohapatra / Rediff.com
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