After a largely unanticipated run of unbeaten form in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the Indian cricket team has been finally vanquished! The Men In Blue had to surrender arms against Australia in the 2nd semi final at Sydney, and are now on their way back home. This also means that India are no longer the world champions in cricket, and that a new occupant of the throne shall rise to fame after Sunday’s final in Melbourne. Let us, then, take a retrospective view of the way things changed for the Indian cricket team in the last four years.
World Champions in 2011
It was the year the golden generation of Indian cricket saw its labour bear sweet fruits. It was the year when a team built and nurtured by Sourav Ganguly and subsequently led forward by MS Dhoni took India to supremacy in world cricket after 28 long years. Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Harbhajan were all a part and parcel of the team that became the world champions on 2nd April, 2011. The World Cup glory marked the pinnacle that this team could reach during its days. But after this, things went all too wrong for the Indians.
Indian cricket team beaten in England and Australia
The feel good factor after World Cup 2011 soon vanished for the Indian cricket team. The infamous tours of England and Australia in that year itself signalled that the old guard had indeed outlived its longevity. 4-0 thrashings were meted out to India in both countries and calls for effective changes in the team structure became louder with time. MS Dhoni’s test captaincy was under fire. And the ODI team, too, appeared out of shape, with age taking a toll on the veterans’ reflexes. This was accompanied by the heartbreaking discovery of Yuvraj’s cancer diagnosis! The Test team, even with greats like Laxman, Dravid and Sachin, needed an immediate overhaul and the ODI team was in search of new blood!
India humiliated by England and Pakistan – At home!
It was towards the end of 2012 that the Indian cricket team’s inability to continue with the ageing players became strongly apparent. Earlier, Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from ODI cricket in March 2012 had already paved the way for fresh faces in the limited overs format. The Englishmen merely catalysed India’s transition process. A 2-1 loss in the Test series to Alastair Cook’s men was followed by yet another 2-1 loss to Pakistan in a home-based ODI series. By the end of 2012, the team bore a disheveled look – unable to grasp the changing reality!
New heroes emerge – India whitewash Australia at home, win Champions Trophy
2013 heralded the creation of a team which we now see taking the field for India in most formats of the game. For, it was in this year that the likes of Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, and Ravindra Jadeja came to being recognized as permanent members of the national team. A newly formed unit overpowered the Aussies 4-0 in Tests at home, and youngsters like Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane came to the fore in Test cricket. A few months later, in mid 2013, India went on to win the Champions Trophy in England, and made the credentials of the new generation amply clear on the world stage.
Challenges in Test Cricket persist – Series defeats in South Africa and New Zealand
The Indian cricket team looked well set on the route to ascendancy before the tour of South Africa in December 2013. However, the young team had to contend with series defeats to the Proteas in both ODIs and Tests. The same fate awaited Dhoni’s men in New Zealand, a couple of months later, when the apparent weaknesses in the new Indian unit became overbearing. Fast bowling, especially, had become India’s Achilles heel by the time a tired unit returned home in Feb 2014.
Historic Test win at Lords, followed by yet another series defeat in England
An entire nation celebrated the Indian cricket team’s historic win at Lords in July 2014. It was after 28 years that India had managed to win at this venue, and also broken a protracted winless period in overseas Tests. However, the victory celebrations were ephemeral! The Englishmen came back strongly in the same series and routed India 3-1 in the end. However, Dhoni and Co. responded strongly with a 3-1 victory in the ODI series that followed the Tests.
Agony Down Under, but India spring a surprise in World Cup 2015
India toured Australia in December 2014, but were unable to win a single Test or ODI in the next two months. MS Dhoni’s retirement from Tests came during this tour, and the Indian cricket team was left to face the emerging realities under the captaincy of Virat Kohli. The chances of the Indians making any significant impact on the World Cup 2015 were bleak, but the grizzled warriors turned it around at the mega tournament, under Dhoni’s evergreen presence. A dreamy unbeaten run till the semi finals took the world by surprise, and raised hopes of the Indian youngsters using their lessons to good effect in the future.
The likes of Shami, Umesh, Dhawan, Rohit and Jadeja are now the established members of this Indian brigade. MS Dhoni looks fit for atleast a couple of years more. India, as we realistically believe, can entertain chances of going the distance in the World Cup 2019, which is set to be played in England. The evolution, though, shall keep coming, and we are likely to see newer faces in the years to come.