As we come to the end of 2017, The Ring Side View looks back at the major developments the Indian side has undergone over the last one year.
Kohli thrives as T20I, ODI captain
Virat Kohli has so seamlessly moved in as the limited overs skipper that one could not be blamed for forgetting that he was permanently assigned the role in January. As Micheal Vaughan believes, the Indian skipper along with his Australian counterpart belong to the ‘freak’ category. Kohli has averaged 75.64 in Tests, 76.84 in ODIs and 37.37 in T20Is this year – incredible numbers for somebody shouldering captaincy responsibilities. With a tough road ahead, 2018 could be the year Virat Kohli cements himself as one of the greatest of all-time, as a batsman and a captain.
Emergence of Chahal-Kuldeep combination
Virat Kohli has made it clear with his selections – he wants Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as his frontline spinners in a limited overs team. And both players have obliged with great consistency in 2017. The wrist spinners have picked up 70 wickets this year, T20Is and ODIs combined. Kuldeep has also entered the Test side, with his most notable performance coming against Australia in Dharamsala and guiding India to a series win. Chahal has emerged as the lead spinner in the ODI and T20I side, taking the reins from Ravichandran Ashwin. He has picked up 40 wickets at a strike-rate of 23.77 combined this year. With tours of South Africa, England and Australia ahead, a tough road awaits the youngsters but they possess the wicket-taking abilities to succeed in foreign conditions.
Different formats, Different bowlers
Here’s a look at the number of games each bowler has played in 2017:
The year 2016 was an indication, and 2017 has validated the trend – India are using different bowling line-ups for different formats. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have fallen down the pecking order and the wrist spinners have taken over in ODIs and T20Is. Axar Patel remains in the mix as the third spinner/second all-rounder. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar lead India’s pace attack in limited overs, and Hardik Pandya is considered the third seamer in the side.
The finger spinners are regulars in the Test side along with Umesh Yadav. Mohammed Shami suffered an injury early in the year, forcing him to miss the one-off Test against Bangladesh and the series against Australia, but remains India’s spearhead. Kuldeep Yadav and Ishant Sharma are the backup bowlers.
India have never been able to boast of depth in the bowling department, but they certainly can now. If injuries stay away next year, India offer a strong challenge in their tours in 2018.
The rise and rise of Hardik Pandya
In 2016, Hardik Pandya was an emerging player. He is now the rising start of world cricket. Comparisons have been drawn between the 24-year-old and Ben Stokes, and Hardik could prove to be the best seam-bowling all-rounder in the next couple of years. He batted at #4 and flourished, was used as a finisher and delivered, opened the bowling in T20Is and ODIs – whenever the gauntlet was thrown down, Hardik has picked it up. His stature as a Test player is still under-construction, but with seamer friendly overseas conditions in the year ahead, the all-rounder could likely get a nod in the playing XI ahead of a spinner.
The battle for #1 and #2
India have a problem of plenty in the top-order; a welcome headache as they head into 2018. After a poor series against Australia, Murali Vijay has made his way back, with his last three First-Class scores – 140, 128 and 155 and overcoming a wrist injury. KL Rahul, who suffered a shoulder injury mid-year, has found form against Sri Lanka. Shikhar Dhawan has made five centuries and nine fifties this year; and Rohit Sharma has been prolific, registering yet another double century in ODIs. Ajinkya Rahane’s poor form in the Tests has brought him under the spotlight but he has been consistent at the top in ODIs. With these five at the top, India’s opening positions have never been more secure.