It wasn't a bad year by any means for Team India. The side won at home and they won away - India registered its first-ever Test series victory Down Under. However, as the fans look back at 2019, most would immediately rue the lost opportunity - the 2019 World Cup. A global tournament with unparalleled hype in the country, the World Cup in England saw Team India lose painfully in the semifinal.
Virat Kohli and co. were the favourites to lift the coveted trophy in Lord's, but New Zealand, who would eventually finish as runners-up, defeated the Men in Blue by 18 runs. The image of MS Dhoni's run-out - where the bat missed the crease by a whisker - is still shared by Indians on social media as a throwback to one of the most painful moments of the year.
However, for Men in Blue, 2019 was the year of domination in the whites. The side maintained its position at the top of the rankings and continued on its splendid performance in Tests at home, as they registered whitewash victories against South Africa (3-0) and Bangladesh (2-0). The year also saw India's first-ever Day-Night Test match at Kolkata, which proved to be a grand success.
As Team India prepares to take on new challenges in 2020, let's have a quick rewind on their performances in 2019:
Virat Kohli’s team registered a brilliant 2-1 victory in the Test series against Australia. The series is best remembered for the emergence of a new crop of Indian batsmen, which included the likes of Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari – who, with their performances throughout the year, became the mainstays of the Indian Test side.
Australia were forced to follow-on by the Indian team for the first time on their soil in over 30 years during the Sydney Test – such was the domination of the visitors on the tour.
The side carried the momentum in the ODI series, where former Indian captain MS Dhoni rolled back the years with three-consecutive half-centuries to lead the side to a 2-1 series victory.
Flying high in New Zealand
India toured New Zealand amidst controversies surrounding senior Indian cricketers for their comments on a talk show, but the side remained undeterred and performed brilliantly in the ODI series against the Kiwis. The team registered an emphatic 4-1 win under the leadership of Kohli.
Mohammed Shami, who had a rough 2018, made a splendid comeback through this series. In four matches, the Indian pacer took 9 wickets as he was named the Man of the Series. He eventually grabbed a permanent spot in the Indian limited-overs squad.
However, the side faced a 2-1 defeat in the T20I series, in which Rohit Sharma led the side in absence of Kohli.
India hosted Australia for a five-match ODI series in February-March 2019. However, even as the side registered cruising victories in the first two games, Australia fought back to clinch the series 3-2.
MS Dhoni remained absent in the final two ODIs of the series, which allowed game time to India’s young wicketkeeper-batsman, Rishabh Pant.
However, the major focus of the series was the tussle for the number 4 spot in the Indian team. Ambati Rayudu, who had been decent in the New Zealand tour, began to struggle with form and was dropped from the side after a string of low scores. Vijay Shankar, meanwhile, gained prominence after significant contributions with bat and ball.
The latter was eventually selected for the World Cup squad, while Rayudu was excluded.
World Cup heartbreak
It was a similar outing to the 2015 World Cup for India. The side topped the group stage of the tournament, finishing with 15 points in nine matches. The side endured its only loss in the group stage against hosts England and cruised to the semifinal.
However, even as the side’s campaign ended a step before the final, the Indian team produced memorable performances throughout the tournament. Mohammed Shami famously took a hat-trick against Afghanistan – becoming the only second Indian bowler after Chetan Sharma to do so in a World Cup. Shikhar Dhawan’s injury during the game against Australia saw the emergence of KL Rahul as a potent opener, while Rohit Sharma slammed a record five centuries, ending the World Cup as its top-scorer.
A new beginning
The side put aside controversies surrounding Indian cricket after the World Cup loss and made a dominant return with series wins against West Indies at their home. However, the series was also the beginning of the speculations surrounding the future of former Indian captain MS Dhoni.
Even as India ended their 2019 with a home series against the Caribbean side, Dhoni’s future remains a talking point, as he is yet to return to the international setup since the 2019 World Cup.
The away tour against West Indies saw India beginning their campaign in the World Test Championship. The side clinched the T20I and ODI series 2-0, while in Tests, Jasprit Bumrah shined with the ball as he repeated Shami’s feat at the World Cup in the longest format, aiding India to a 2-0 whitewash of the hosts.
Test dominance and Rohit Sharma’s ‘Second Innings’
The West Indies tour was followed by a home season, which included series against South Africa, Bangladesh and the Windies. Amidst conversations surrounding Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul’s place in Test XI, it was the former who held the faith of the team management.
He was promoted as an opener in Tests, and slammed twin centuries in the very first game of the home season against the Proteas. He eventually won the Man of the Series as India cruised to a 3-0 victory.
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly returned to the Indian cricket as the president of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He was central to the side’s participation in the country’s first-ever Day-Night Test match.
The Test took place against Bangladesh in Kolkata, as India cruised to victory within three days, winning the two-match series 2-0.
India’s performance in the shortest format of the game post the World Cup, however, posed a few questions. While the side didn’t concede a series-loss, it lost three games out of nine (with one game abandoned). While the Virat Kohli-led side emerged as the masters of chasing, the team faced difficulties while setting and defending the target.
The performances were further hampered by the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya – the two specialists of the limited-overs format. However, the likes of Deepak Chahar and Shivam Dube stepped up to make a mark in their absence. The former even registered the best figures by a bowler in T20Is (6/7, against Bangladesh) to help India win the series 2-1.
2020 brings another World Cup challenge for Virat Kohli. The Indian captain faced significant criticism after the loss in the fifty-over World Cup, but he has a chance to end the trophy-drought in 2020 with the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Before the tournament, however, India face a tough away tour to New Zealand which would put their batting order to test – especially in the longest format. India also host Sri Lanka and Australia in January before the tour.
Virat Kohli’s men will begin their campaign at the T20 World Cup against South Africa on October 24.