Nishad Pai Vaidya determines what could be in store for Indian cricket in 2013.
For Indian cricket, the year 2012 was forgettable to say the least. It all started with a nightmare of a summer Down Under and finished with the embarrassment of losing a home Test series to England. The year that went by also marked the end of glorious careers – ones that saw India rise to the very pinnacle of Test cricket. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman walked into sunset – leaving gaping holes in the Indian Test line-up. Sachin Tendulkar also called it a day from One-Day International (ODI) cricket. Thus, the year 2012 was the end of an era. The year 2013 beckons the start of a new one.
Here are the assignments lined up for India this year and they present new challenges for this side:
India’s schedule in 2013
January: ODI series vs Pakistan at home
ODI series vs England at home
February-March: Test series vs Australia
April-May: Indian Premier League 2013
June: ICC Champions Trophy 2013
June-July: Tri-series involving Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the Caribbean.
July: ODI series in Zimbabwe (FTP indicates)
September: Champions League T20 2013
October: ODI series vs Australia at home
December-January 2014: Tests, ODI and T20 series in South Africa.
As of now, India doesn’t have too many Test matches scheduled in 2013 with only the home series against Australia and the one in South Africa in the programme. In many ways, both the series are crucial in determining the future of this Test line-up. The series against Australia is an opportunity for India to bounce back and rebuild the fortress at home. The tour to South Africa would be this Indian team’s first one in the aftermath of the Dravid-Laxman era.
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have the opportunity of firmly establishing themselves in the Indian line-up. In many ways, it is similar to the year 1996 – one during which Sourav Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman burst on to the scene. India found a solid line-up in them and they would be looking for a repeat of that with the likes of Kohli and Pujara. Perhaps, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma or Manoj Tiwary may finally don Test caps.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) must try to get more Test series arranged for India. Seven Tests in a year are not enough to build a team and they need more games for that.
Tendulkar’s career plans remain a mystery and it isn’t clear whether he would continue until the South African tour. He has called it a day from the One-Day game and in a way that might point towards a retirement from all forms sometime in the near future. The year 2013 may be his last at the highest level.
In ODIs, India have to start building up for the 2015 World Cup. With a little over two years to go for the big event, India have to zero in on potential players for that tournament. They have a good set of youngsters – who should be groomed. The ICC Champions Trophy 2013 is an ideal opportunity to expose them to the pressure of a big tournament. With a number of ODI assignments this year, India can experiment, but a relatively settled line-up must emerge by the end of 2013.
The major concern for India remains the bowling – irrespective of the format. Zaheer Khan’s loss in form affected India as he has been their leader for years. There have been too many injuries and some of them haven’t looked threatening enough. Umesh Yadav must get back and he can force his way to become India’s frontline option. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been impressive and he has to be handled well this year with an eye for the future.
While Tendulkar’s retirement remains the biggest question, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future plans would also be a subject of intrigue. Early in 2012, the Indian captain said that he might consider dropping one format by the end of 2013 to extend his career through to the next World Cup. Although, there was no express declaration as to what format he would give up, one can imply that Test cricket might be the one. As it is, his captaincy is under fire in Test cricket and he is a much better player in the limited-over formats.
In a nutshell, India have a number of things to figure out in the next 12 months. The transition phase continues and things might have been a little different had they not lost to England at home. Tough, but interesting, times ahead for Indian cricket!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)