This wasn’t the best year for India on the cricket pitch. It started with a series loss against South Africa. India were then unable to hold on to a lead against England, being blown away by their ‘Bazball’ approach at a crucial juncture. That was followed by an early exit from the Asia Cup, a humiliating defeat in the T20 World Cup semifinal and an ODI series loss in Bangladesh. Still, there were moments that made the Indian fan believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. TOI charts out the high points for India in a difficult year…
WINNING THE MATCH OF THE YEAR AGAINST PAKISTAN
While 2022 was marked by disappointments in crucial games in all three formats, the team’s magnificent last-ball win against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup at a packed-to-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground made for the best match of the year. With rain in the air, there was doubt whether the match would take place at all. But the weather gods relented and Pakistan put up a fighting score of 159 on a pitch which had some juice in it.
When India were reduced to 31/4 in reply, it seemed that another humiliation was in the offing. At this point, old hand Virat Kohli decided to play the best T20 innings of his life to bring India to the doorstep of victory. The pendulum kept swinging in the last over and it needed street-smartness by R Ashwin to force Mohammad Nawaz to bowl a wide to tie the scores. The offie finished the game off with a chip shot over mid-off, presenting the Indian fans with a moment of delirium.
THE RISE AND RISE OF SURYAKUMAR
Suryakumar Yadav had to wait for a long time to get his chance on the big stage. But when he got it, the Mumbai right-hander made sure that he made full use of it. Throughout 2022, the 32-year-old established himself as the best white-ball batsman in the world. During his early days for Mumbai or the Kolkata Knight Riders, Surya had shown quality but the ruthlessness and consistency weren’t exactly there. Things changed once he became a part of the Mumbai Indians, winning machine that earned him an India callup in 2021. But he took his game to a different level in 2022 on the international stage. The ability to play shots all around the ground made him the latest 360 degree player — the new AB de Villiers, if you please.
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When SKY himself said that he wants to be like De Villiers after a match-winning effort, the South African legend tweeted: “You’re very quickly getting there dude, and even more!” If Surya can really keep it going, the Indian batting lineup will go to a different level in the ODI World Cup in October-November, and fans will have reasons to dream about a 2011 encore.
KOHLI REDISCOVERS THE TOUCH
Three years of century drought for Virat Kohli made many believe that the master batsman may not ever be the same player that he was. But Kohli proved in the second-half of 2022 that he may have one final gear left in him. He had taken a couple of months’ break in the middle of the year and came to the Asia Cup with his batteries recharged. He found his smile back, played without inhibition and scored a century (his first in T20I) against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup that gave him the belief that he still had a lot to contribute.
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Kohli’s moment of glory gave India’s its highest point of the year, the game against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup. His outstanding 82* off 53 balls helped India pull off a magnificent victory. The six that he hit in the 19th over with a straight punch over paceman Haris Rauf’s head is being considered by many as one of the best shots ever played in T20 cricket. Kohli backed it up with another ODI ton against Bangladesh in a bilateral series. Now it’s about finding the touch back in Test cricket.
HARDIK PANDYA’S EMERGENCE AS FUTURE T20 CAPTAIN
When India crashed out of the T20 World Cup following an embarrassing 10-wicket loss against England in the semis, it was evident that the Men in Blue need some fresh ideas in the shortest format of the game. Come the New Zealand tour, Hardik Pandya was made the T20 captain and India won the series. Now he has been named the skipper in the shortest format for the Sri Lanka series as well.
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Pandya did a superb job as skipper for the new franchise Gujarat Titans as they went on to become champions in their debut IPL season in 2022. Hardik is a fantastic limited-overs batsman and a useful medium-pacer when fit. There’s a fierce aggressive streak in him that the Indian team sorely lacked in the T20 World Cup in Australia. Hardik also brings an element of nonchalance in his body language — a la MS Dhoni — that seemed to help Gujarat in tight situations in the IPL. It’s to be seen whether he can retain the cool till the next T20 World Cup in 2024.
ISHAN KISHAN’S FASTEST ODI DOUBLE TON IN BANGLADESH
As India failed in the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup followed by a loss in the ODI series to Bangladesh, it was evident that the team’s approach at the top of the order was not working. The likes of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have all been excellent cricketers over the years, but none of them are slam-bang hitters. The players who have grown up with T20 cricket as their No. 1 format have that uninhibited daredevilry that the team needed, and Ishan Kishan fits the mould.
The Jharkhand left-hander got his chance against Bangladesh in the third ODI after India had lost the series and he showed what his generation can do if given a proper go. Kishan smashed the fastest-ever double ton in ODIs, reaching the milestone in 126 balls in Chattogram. The Bangladesh bowlers, who had strangled the Indian batting till then, just didn’t know where to hide against such an onslaught. It also left a pointer for the team management that the likes of Kishan, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw should be given more chances in white-ball cricket so that India can discover that explosive element that has been sorely lacking in their game.