With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time to look back and count the hits and misses in cricket, applaud those who scored big and point out those who were dismissed for a duck. Here’s a look at the five positives –
India team: Virat Kohli’s team focused on winning at all costs, making fitness non-negotiable. This aggressive new team culture is aligned to Virat’s DNA and constitutes a major departure from the past. The women’s team, led by Mithali Raj with poise, emerged from the shadows of the men’s team with an inspiring run in England.
The selection committee: While attention is focused on Virat/Shastri for rebooting the Indian team, MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, deserves credit for building different teams for different formats. MSK takes tough calls in an objective manner. Because of that India has all bases covered with quality sitting on the bench.
Such are India’s riches Karun Nair is missing out in Tests, KL Rahul can’t make the one-day squad and Ashwin/ Jadeja are out of the shorter formats.
Star players: The year was huge for Virat and Ashwin; both bossed Test cricket and are on the fast track to achieve legend status. The year also saw the stunning rise of Rohit Sharma, a limited-overs expert who is destructive like Sehwag and has the touch of Lara. Harmanpreet Kaur bats like Rohit; her 171 not out in the World Cup was as stunning as Kapil Dev’s unbeaten 175 in 1983.
Domestic Cricket: After underperforming for years, Delhi came good in Ranji Trophy. Its resurgence was powered by youngsters Navdeep Saini, Kulwant Khejroliya, Kunal Chandela and Himmat Singh. Vidarbha reached the final for the first time riding on contributions from imports Wasim Jaffer, G Sateesh and coach Chandrakant Pandit. This season, Ranji threw up exciting new talent — Prithvi Shaw, Rajneesh Gurbani, Anmolpreet Singh — all future stars.
READ | Giant-killers Vidarbha can upstage Delhi in Ranji Trophy final: Manoj Tiwary
The IPL: The IPL made smart rule changes covering player retention, player purse and squad strength. The decision to allow teams to transfer players mid season opens up interesting commercial and tactical possibilities.
With little progress on substantive matters of governance, 2017 was a year of lost opportunity for Indian cricket. The CoA was meant to be a nightwatchman, but a year after it took guard it resembles a batsman who can’t put bat to ball. The COA is yet to open its account to make a difference. Is BCCI better off under its watch? Has the Lodha committee report been implemented? Has Indian cricket progressed? The answers are obvious.
The BCCI though did extremely well to reorganise its home season and sort out the Future Tours Programme (FTP). But to cite IPL’s mega media deal as a governance triumph is playing around with truth. The reality is cricket works in India and corporates put money on the table because of cricket’s amazing connect with fans. Any individual taking credit for attracting money into cricket is deluding himself.
READ | Rohit Sharma not bothered by India’s cramped schedule ahead of South Africa tour
Prominent in the negatives list of 2017 was the muddled process of selecting the India coach, which humiliated Anil Kumble and ended up as a sorry episode. The BCCI treated Ranji Trophy with similar disrespect and its handling of Duleep — scrapped suddenly then restored — was equally appalling.
But the ultimate low point, from a performance perspective, was the India under-19 team’s loss to Nepal.