2017 has been a very successful calendar year for India’s limited overs side. Just after the turn of the year, MS Dhoni shocked many by announcing that he was going to step down as skipper of the limited overs side after being in the hot seat since 2007. The obvious heir apparent was going to be Virat Kohli and he took over as the captain of the national side in all three formats of the game. India have since faced England, West Indies and Sri Lanka in bilateral series and have won them 2-1, 3-1 and 5-0, respectively. The singular losses to England and West Indies came after the series was wrapped up.
India also reached the final of the Champions Trophy where they lost to archrivals Pakistan in what one can describe as a rare off day. Although that was a massive disappointment, since they were one of the big favourites going into the tournament, India have since been very impressive in the ODI series against West Indies and in the Test series and limited overs series against Sri Lanka. India were absolutely clinical in the recently concluded Sri Lanka tour. They walloped Sri Lanka 3-0 in the Tests and won convincingly 5-0 and 1-0 in the ODIs and the sole T20I, respectively.
India tried out several new combinations in the limited overs leg of the series. Front line spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were rested; Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami were also given a break after a long summer with the IPL, Champions Trophy, West Indies tour and the Test series in Sri Lanka. Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav were all recalled into the limited overs scheme of things and performed commendably in the series to put their hats into the ring for selection in the upcoming series. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were excellent as always and showed why they were the best limited-overs bowlers India have at the moment.
Coming to the batting side of things, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have well and truly established why there is a case for them to be the best opening partnership going around thanks to consistent performances since they reunited during the Champions Trophy. Virat Kohli reached 30 ODI hundreds with two match winning centuries – a tally that puts him equal with Ricky Ponting’s and joint second behind Sachin Tendulkar, who has 49 ODI hundreds. Kohli became the fastest batsman to reach the landmark, having done it in 186 innings. Tendulkar took 267 and Ponting took 349, in comparison. KL Rahul failed to make the most of the opportunity at No.4 but Manish Pandey performed very well and along with Kedar Jadhav, he might as well have cemented his place in the ODI side for the foreseeable future. Hardik Pandya has shown continuous improvement and has enough promise to justify the faith in him to be India’s long term answer for a fast bowling allrounder. MS Dhoni was reliable as ever with the bat and has now completed 100 stumpings in ODI cricket, which is a record.
Sri Lanka’s interim head coach Nic Pothas gave India the ultimate compliment by comparing him with the all-conquering rugby side All Blacks. “You look at their team and they are very All Blacks-like,” said the former Hampshire wicket-keeper. “There’s a lot of respect for the facilities and there’s a lot of respect for the opposition. They are very ruthless in the way they go about their work. Their work ethic is immense. They are what a lot of teams aspire to be. The most important thing for us is learning from our mistakes, but most importantly: learning from them.”
He also said, “You see how Virat runs between the wickets, and you see the respect he commands on the field as a leader – he’s a role model to people and he pulls people with him. When you look at the way they go about their work and the culture that Virat has created within that team, it’s very, very impressive.”
All in all, India have been in terrific form in all three formats of the game. And although there was the unwanted saga involving Anil Kumble and the coaching saga, India seem to have put all that in the backburners and have continued to perform at the highest level. Virat Kohli’s men have an ODI series at home against Australia to look forward to next, followed by a return series against Sri Lanka at home before they embark on a tough and big tour to South Africa during the start of the next calendar year. Exciting times ahead for India under Kohli? Well, we will have to wait and see..