What's brewing for Team India in 2017?
MUMBAI: Cricket is a witty sport; a player needs to persistently change gears, switch to different modes owing to the manifold formats.
Team India — after a barrage of Tests in 2016 — have an altogether new mission to surmount, one that may perhaps decide the permanence of limited-over skipper MS Dhoni. The operation is ICC Champions Trophy.
The Test squad, led by the magnificent Virat Kohli, scaled new heights. They were unbeaten throughout the year but there lies a key. Change in leadership means altering logistics as well as temperament. At present, the Men in Blue are more used to Kohli than Dhoni who makes a guest appearance whenever there is an ODI or a T20 series.
One should also remember that India, despite playing at home, couldn’t beat West Indies in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final. But they have a possibility to compensate for the heartbreak. The Champions Trophy is the award they earned in thorny circumstances (after the IPL spot-fixing saga in 2013) in England three summers ago. They will go into the tournament with an almost identical squad. There will be no hurdle if they recall past heroics.
Setting the stage for the magnum opus will be a few interesting battles — the ODI series against England who they thrashed in Tests recently. The British pride, crushed in the heat of the sub-continent, is capable of providing a stroke to the Indians in limited-over cricket. They almost won the ICC World Twenty20 title had Carlos Brathwaite not gone nuts.
The team selection for the ODI series will be exciting for coach Anil Kumble and the support staff decided on a rotational policy to ensure players aren’t exhausted. However, reports say that the squad will be picked after a training camp in the first week of January; it adds that Dhoni may need to prove his fitness through a warm-up game.
The series will start from January 15 in Pune. Ace spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are likely to be rested after the lengthy tenure that will open the gates for youngsters. But the spotlight will be on Hardik Pandya — India’s find of 2016.
When England is gone, Dhoni will disappear till Indian Premier League (IPL). The auction, though, will be held in February. Captain Cool will have a tiny window to hone his skills in international cricket. India will next prepare to host Bangladesh in a one-off Test, much like the last time the sides met in whites. But the most awaited battle will commence when Australia, an old enemy, lands here.
The tension will mount when the mighty Aussies gear up for a long summer — four Tests. Any India-Australia series is filled with drama, verbal exchanges that lead to anecdotes for the posterior. The Indian spectators love them, call them the second-in-command to Pakistan — the arch rivals. But the current Australian team went through a lot of ups and downs, the debacle in Sri Lanka, against South Africa at home et al. They are under renovation but not to be ignored at all.
But the heat will escalate if Pakistan indeed show up in India in November for three Tests, five ODIs and a couple of T20s. Not only will the BCCI earn revenue, it will please fans and relations between the nations may just experience sunshine. Who would not want to end the year with an Indo-Pak encounter at the premier stadiums in India over Coke? The answer lies with you.
January 15-22: India vs England ODI series at home – three matches
January 26-February 1: India vs England T20 series at home – three matches
February 8-12: India vs Bangladesh (Hyderabad)
February 23-March 25: India vs Australia Test series at home
June 1-19: ICC Champions Trophy
July: West Indies vs India in the Caribbean, 5 ODIs and 1 T20
August: Sri Lanka vs India in SL: 3 Test matches, 5 ODIs and 1T20
October: India vs Australia at home: 5 ODIs and 1 T20
November-December: India vs Pakistan (tentative)