Dhoni wins World Cup but India loses No 1 Test status (2011 in Retrospect - Cricket)

December 21st, 2011 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) From the heights of winning the World Cup after 28 years to the despair of a disastrous tour of England, Indian cricket has swung from one end of the spectrum to the other. They are now Down Under to reclaim their status as the No.1 Test side.

Then the unusually long wait for Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century. Since hitting his 99th ton in the World Cup match against South Africa, the maestro came within striking distance of that magic hundred twice in Tests against England and the West Indies.

Tendulkar, however, was able to realise his childhood dream of being part of a World Cup winning team and that too on his home turf Wankhede Stadium. He must also be happy that he is not the only player to score a double century in One-Day Internationals (ODI) - that he did last year and his team mate Virender Sehwag not only emulated him but also raised the bar to a height not easily reachable.

Another Tendulkar stable-mate, Rahul Dravid, continues to quietly prove that he has a special spot to perch himself on in world cricket. With one more Test to be played before the year is wrung out, he has scored 1,067 runs in Tests in 2011 and he also became the second batsman after Tendulkar to get past 13,000 runs.

Dravid, who will turn 39 next month, cracked three classy centuries to salvage some pride for his team in a 4-0 whitewash by England. With it, England wrested World No 1 tag from India.

Dravid’s form in England, where all the top Indian batsmen struggled, forced the national selectors to recall the former India captain, the seventh highest run getter in the ODIs (10,889), for the one-day series after a gap of two years. Hours after he was picked, Dravid stumped the selectors by announcing his retirement from ODIs and Twenty20 after the series against England.

India started the year in a bid to stay as World No 1 team and they managed to do so by holding the powerful South Africa 1-1 for the first time since the two countries started playing Test cricket in 1992. And the Indians had a great chance of pulling off their maiden series when they came to Cape Town to play the third Test. But the bowlers let the side down, having India still without a series win in that country and in the end the batsmen made sure they did not lose it.

On a thrilling fifth day, Gautam Gambhir led the Indian resistance with Dravid. The ODI series was also fiercely fought and South Africa won it 3-2.

Back in home, the Indian team’s focus was back on the World Cup which has returned to the sub-continent a third time after 15 years. The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side lost to South Africa and tied with England, before mauling defending champions Australia in the quarterfinals and arch-rivals Pakistan in the semifinal to set up a title clash with Sri Lanka.

In the final at the packed Wankhede in Mumbai, Gambhir set the tone with a fine 97, while chasing a stiff target of 275, and Dhoni promoted himself up the order and came up with a match winning unbeaten 91 and sealed the title with a six as the winning runs. The whole country erupted in joy while emotions ran high at Wankhede. Even Tendulkar couldn’t control his tears as he finally lived the moment that he had longed for.

But the star of the World Cup was Yuvraj Singh, who came into the tournament on the back of poor form and injuries. He turned jeers into cheers with an all-round performance scoring 362 runs and picking 15 wickets and four Man-of-the-Match awards. He was also adjudged as the Player of the Tournament.

The euphoria of the World Cup was yet to sink in as the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) started within six days of the World Cup and Dhoni was again the star leading Chennai Super Kings to successfully defend the title.

The fatigue of endless cricket finally took a toll on the Indian cricketers and top players Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj skipped the West Indies tour either for rest or to nurse injuries. Dhoni led a second-string Test team to a 1-0 win in the three-Test series. He opted out of the ODI series. The Suresh Raina-led ODI team won the five-match series 3-2 but the decision of the seniors to skip the tour had its impact on the much-hyped England series that followed next.

Newly crowned World Champions India landed in England as the No.1 Test side, but by the end of the series they were dislodged. There was no respite for the Indians in the five-match ODI series and they lost it 0-3.

Within a month after handing to England the Pataudi Trophy, named after his father, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi passed away at the age of 70 after battling a lung disease.

India repaid the compliment to England in an ODI series at home 5-0. The form continued and India dominated the three-match Test series against the West Indies winning it 2-0 and the ODIs 4-1.

(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at abhishek.roy@ians.in)

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