By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The year 2011 was one that saw India touch the ultimate high and then crumble to ignominy in the classical format. While the 2011 World Cup victory sparked celebrations in the country, a horrendous experience in England and Australia that followed dismayed the purists. A formidable line-up didn’t live up to its reputation and the weight of its numbers as it surrendered its crown to England and were then bullied Down Under. Keeping this in perspective, it is no surprise that no Indian has made it to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test Team of the year.
In 2004, the ICC Awards were commemorated where the “Player of the year”, “Test Player of the Year”, “One-Day International (ODI) Player of the year”, “Emerging Player of the year” among others were picked. Since then, more categories have been added with Women’s cricket joining the party and the advent of T20. An important feature of that ceremony was that the game’s governing body would announce the best side comprising 12 players for both Tests and ODIs. The game’s leading captain for the format would also be honoured with a similar rank for the dream team.
While a player’s feat of making the eleven is based purely on individual brilliance and has nothing to do with his side’s run, the fact that no Indian has made it to the eleven this year clearly reflects the collective failure of the whole team. Consider this, since its inception in 2004, it is the first time that the ICC Test Team of the year doesn’t feature an Indian player. Let us have a look at the Indian players who have been a part of this side in the previous years:
2004 Rahul Dravid
2005 Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble*
2006 Rahul Dravid
2007 Zaheer Khan*
2008 Virender Sehwag
2009 Gautam Gambhir
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
2010 Virender Sehwag
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
2011 Sachin Tendulkar
*Selected as the 12th man
Somewhere in the mid 2000s, India didn’t enjoy a very good time at the highest level, but it wasn’t as tumultuous as the 2011-12 season. There were occasions when India did secure victories and presented hope for a better future. In contrast, the last season was a slippery slope as India continued to fall to previously unimaginable nadirs. While Dravid may have sparkled through most of it, his form in Australia coincided with the team’s struggle. VVS Laxman’s touch artistry was conspicuous by its absence and Tendulkar showed glimpses of form, but never went on to score big ones.
A major inflow of Indian players into the team can be seen in the years 2009 and 2010 – where India surged to the number one rankings and then held on to it. Tendulkar and Dhoni had phenomenal years and couldn’t be denied a spot in the coveted eleven. Tendulkar defied the age factor and put in a fantastic performance. Dhoni on the other hand went from strength to strength as a leader and was also handed the honour for the side picked by ICC for those two years.
The other thing this list tells us is that Zaheer and Kumble are the only Indian bowlers who have made it to the list. The duo was by far India’s most effective bowlers during the past decade or so. Zaheer in particular has been India’s most potent force in the recent years as the team heavily banks on him in the fast bowling department. The others have done well in patches, but haven’t matched the consistency levels set by Zaheer and Kumble.
India in a way is lucky that they have a long home season ahead – particularly after the horrors of the last season. It would allow the youngsters to blend into the system and become a part of the highest level. Great performances over the next year or so may not exactly reflect India’s development as the real test awaits them overseas. However, success against England and Australia in the coming months would be the primary objective and if some of the players make a comeback into the ICC’s list – it would be an icing on the cake.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst 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 can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44 )