Kohli leads new dawn of Indian cricket

New Delhi: 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 BCCI boss.

Kohli, who had already taken charge of the Test team in December last year post Dhoni’s surprising exit after the Sydney game, 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 post a 2-1 series win.

The young leader then made history after he led India to a 3-0 series win at home against the No.1 Test side South Africa, who were made to taste an overseas loss after 9 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 ICC did term the Jamtha track as “poor” and gave an official warning.

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

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 2013 season.

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 RM Lodha-led committee declared the quantum of punishment on the officials and the teams.

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.

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 editions of the cash-rich league.

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 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 spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who were 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.

If Ashwin established himself as the premier off-spinner of the country then 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 semifinals of the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Dhoni-led India defended their 50-over World Cup crown in full gusto only to end in the final-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.

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 remained the top 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’ of the Men in Blue, who seemed to have lost the midas touch.