With a new Captain-Coach combo in Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid taking over the reins of Indian men’s cricket, fans had great expectations for 2022. But far from any major improvement, the performance was poor by Men in Blue across all formats and the Indian cricket team had an eminently forgettable year. From disappointing losses in big events like Asia Cup and T20 World Cup to the shocking loss of the ODI series in Bangladesh, there were more lows than highs for Team India. Now, as we get ready for the series with Sri Lanka, a review of the highlights and headaches of 2022 may well give us crucial pointers on how to improve for 2023.
It all started with the loss in the Test series against South Africa on their soil. After winning the first test, Team India capitulated in the next two matches, handing over a series win to the Proteas. The poor batting show of Team India’s middle order stood out like a sore thumb in the losses. The concerns remained similar to the past year where India failed to capitalize on key moments in the second innings of most matches. India was thrashed by South Africa in One Day Internationals too.
The losses in South Africa led to Virat Kohli stepping down from Test captaincy as well. There were leadership issues post his decision and we saw musical chairs with Indian captaincy across formats. Problems intensified due to Rohit’s regular breakdowns and poor fitness, which led to a lack of consistency despite several victories in bilateral series.
Before the IPL consumed a couple of months, India managed a Test series win against a weak Sri Lankan side and some bilateral series wins in white ball cricket against West Indies and England. But everyone’s attention was on the last match of the Test series between India and England which was left incomplete due to Covid. Sadly, India squandered the opportunity to win a series in England, losing the last test which was also a setback in terms of losing important points in the World Test Championship. Once again, Indian team failed to defend a big target as the bowlers felt fatigued in the fourth innings.
In T20 cricket, there was huge embarrassment at the Asia Cup where India was expected to lift the trophy but failed to even qualify for the finals. The lackluster bowling was again on display, after batters put up impressive totals to defend. It was an action replay at the T20 World Cup in Australia. Team India failed to once again reach the finals after being butchered by English batsmen in the semi-finals of the championship. It happened despite the win over Pakistan that should have given momentum as Virat Kohli played the innings of his life and possibly the finest all time knock in T20 Cricket.
While the bowling at most times was pedestrian, there were big gains for Indian batting with the emergence of Surya Kumar Yadav and Virat’s strong comeback in form. But bowling weaknesses and injuries to key bowlers, especially pace-ace Jasprit Bumrah and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja left India in the doldrums through much of the year.
Strange selections further worsened Team India’s problems. In the T20 World Cup, India just couldn’t decide between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Kartik. Finally, they played Pant in the semi-finals. Also, the dilemma over Sanju Samson continues as he gets little opportunities in the star-studded Indian line-up to showcase his full potential. India’s failure to choose a wrist spinner has often gone against them. The success of Shadab and Abdul Rashid from Pakistan and England, respectively, the two finalists at the T20 World Cup, showed how useful leggies are to picking wickets. In contrast, India ignored Yuzi Chahal who was in the squad and Ravi Bishnoi was left out despite promising performances whenever he got a chance.
Not surprisingly, India floundered in Bangladesh, where they lost the ODI series 2-1. In the first two matches, Indian bowlers failed to get the wickets of tailenders which ultimately led to defeat. The positive for India was the stunning performance by Ishan Kishan who hit the fastest 200 ever in ODI cricket in the final match. The knock also gives hope at a time when Rohit and Rahul are in woeful form and Shikhar Dhawan seems on his way out. Ishan’s knock served as a reminder to the selectors that it is high time to give youth a greater chance as India gets a squad ready for the ODI World Cup later in 2023.
Though Indian managed a 2-0 Test series win against Bangladesh but it wasn’t without a lot of hard work in the second match. At one point, India was all set to lose its first ever Test match against Bangladesh, luckily, a rescue act from Ashwin and Shreyas sealed the series in their favor. A critical current requirement is to focus on more all-rounders and identify bowlers with potential and persist with them. Indian team also needs to learn from England and be clinical and ruthless in its approach. If old, unfit, out-of-form players need to be replaced then so be it. It is where the massive IPL talent pool will serve as a boon.
If India is to wipe off the largely apt tag given by former English Captain Michael Vaughan that “India are the Most Underperforming Team in White-Ball Cricket,” it is time to be more rational and consistent in their approach. Rahul Dravid’s role as the Head Coach is also under the scanner and underperformance by the team in the next few series can well bring about an early end to his coaching stint with the national team.
It is time for bold decisions and bold cricket if India is to end its long wait for an ICC trophy in 2023!