Topsy-turvy 2015 for Indian cricket

On the field, the team endured a mixed year starting with the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led ODI side failing to defend its World Cup title while the new-look Test side won five of the nine Test matches under new skipper Virat Kohli.          Off the field, while it was curtains for N Srinivasan both from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC), the national cricket board got a new set of office bearers with Nagpur strongman Shashank Manohar taking over the reins for the second time.
The calender year also witnessed the suspension of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) from the cash-rich Indian Premier League because of betting-related activities involving team officials Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra in 2013.
year started with Kohli taking over the reins of the Test side after Dhoni quit the longer version midway the Border-Gavaskar series against Australia. Despite losing the series, India found a new ray of hope as Kohli led from the front in the final Test with a brilliant 147.
India’s ODI campaign in 2015 started on a disastrous note as the men-in-blue failed to win a single match in the tri-series involving Australia and England, that followed the Test rubber.
With fans fuming and backlash back home, India, however, managed to reach the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup 2015 before going down to eventual champions Australia in the last four.
The cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) followed next with Mumbai Indians being crowned champions. It was not the on-field achievements of the IPL that hit headlines, but the suspension of CSK and RR became the talk of the town.
Both Meiyappan and Kundra, who were earlier found guilty of betting by the Justice RM Lodha Committee, were suspended for life from any cricketing activity undertaken by the BCCI.
Following the suspension, the game’s governing body in the country had to bring in two new teams (Pune and Rajkot) for the tournament to make it a competitive one.          Back to international cricket, India embarked on the tour to Bangladesh, where the ODI side succumbed to their first ever bilateral series defeat of 1-2 in the three-match rubber.          The series also saw the return of veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh into the national team as the Kohli-led side drew the lone Test against the hosts.
The Bangladesh fiasco was followed by a second-string Indian team led by Ajinkya Rahane, who was dropped after the first ODI loss to Bangladesh with Dhoni publicly citing his sluggishness in such conditions as the reason – touring Zimbabwe for three ODIs and two Twenty20 internationals. India clinched the ODI series 3-0 before levelling the T20I series 1-1.
In August, Kohli embarked on his first full tour as Test captain when India toured Sri Lanka for a three-match series that saw Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara bow out after the second Test. The visitors came out victorious 2-1 to register their first Test series win in the island nation in 22 years.
The Lanka series was followed by over two-month-long South Africa tour of India which started on a disappointing note as the hosts lost both the T20 and ODI series.
But India’s rising dominance in the longer format was once again proved as the Kohli-led brigade outclassed Hashim Amla’s men 3-0 in the four-match rubber. The pitch in Nagpur – the venue for the third Test – was the centre of all controversies, as critics across the globe hit back at India for producing such rank-turners.
Cricket in India never seemed to take the backseat as the proposed short limited overs series against arch-rivals Pakistan in December was cancelled following acrimonious relationship between the two nations.
The BCCI and the PCB had signed an MoU last year, agreeing to play a total of six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023. The first of these were to be hosted by the PCB in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December.
But with BCCI president Shashank Manohar reluctant to play in the UAE, the PCB agreed to host a limited-overs series in Sri Lanka. The BCCI asked the Indian government to play the series but the government did not come up with a decision, which ultimately led to the series being cancelled.
The biggest surprise from the BCCI came in the penultimate week of the year when the selectors recalled veterans Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra in the T20 side for the upcoming tour Down Under next month.
As chief selector Sandeep Patil said, they had named the team keeping the ICC World T20 in mind. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for the team in the mega tournament, which will be held in India in March-April next year.