Virat Kohli’s watertight grip over Indian cricket loosened significantly in a mixed 2021 bag, when the team’s wineless run at ICC events continued but the ‘Men in Blue’ cherished a historic Test series triumph in Australia.
When M S Dhoni left white-ball captaincy in 2017, Kohli became the undisputed king of Indian cricket with his rule unchallenged for the three years that followed.
In the absence of a strong administration at BCCI, Kohli called the shots and not many seemed to mind it with India performing well across formats though the ICC title eluded them.
However, his reign had to be challenged at some point with Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah filling the power vacuum in the world’s most powerful board towards the end of 2019.
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The Alpha males of Indian cricket did not come in each other’s way for the following year and cracks in their relationship could only be seen after Kohli decided to step down from T20 captaincy at the end of the 2020 World Cup. He had no plans to leave the ODI captaincy but India’s premature exit from the tournament led to the inevitable and the mighty Kohli did not see that BCCI bombshell coming. Following his sacking as 50-over skipper, dirty linen was washed in public with Kohli and Ganguly contradicting each other on the sequence of events that led to the former’s removal.
Kohli is used to the spotlight with cameras following his every move on the field but now that space will be shared by new white ball skipper Rohit Sharma.
With 70 international hundreds under his belt, the charismatic cricketer has nothing left to prove but after a quiet two years with the bat by his high standards and his feud with the BCCI, Kohli will be more fired up than ever to show that he remains the best in the business.
The early exit at T20 World Cup was a big disappointment but it marked the end of a successful era under Kohli and Ravi Shastri, especially in the longest format. Not many can question the greatness of the Kohli-led Test team but the defeat in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand was also a big letdown of the year. India had played remarkably well to reach the final and would have been worthy winners of that trophy but New Zealand once again upstaged them on the big stage. However, nothing can take sheen off India’s second consecutive series win in Australia with an injury-ravaged team struggling to even field a playing eleven in the series decider in Brisbane.
The win at the Gabba will be talked about for years to come, not just because it was Australia’s first loss at the venue in 33 years but the way India overcame an injury crisis and the 36 all out debacle at Adelaide to script a comeback for the ages. Kohli went back home after the first Test for the birth of his child but the way Ajinkya Rahane led the side in his absence also played a major role in India’s monumental achievement Down Under. Later in the year, Kohli and Co. were set for another overseas series win but the fifth and final Test in England had to be cancelled due to a COVID outbreak in the visitors. India lead the series 2-1 with the final Test to be played next year.
If India manage to win that series in 2022 and the ongoing battle against Proteas, Kohli will be become the first Asian captain to win Test series in England, South Africa and Australia.
India look in good shape to extend their dominance in the five-day game but Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid have work to do to turn the team’s fortunes in white-ball cricket with T20 World Cup and ODI World Cup scheduled in 2022 and 2023 respectively. A bunch of young players will be getting a fair share of their opportunities ahead of the two ICC events and the team management would be hoping to plug the gaps in the power hitting and bowling department. Like in the previous year, COVID-19 continued to wreak havoc with the international calendar including India’s commitments and the suspension of IPL during the raging second wave in the country.
Besides, India’s final Test in England being rescheduled to next year, the ODI series between hosts Pakistan and West Indies had to be postponed due to multiple positive cases in the visitors’ camp.
Pakistan, which had been trying to bring top teams to the country for years, were dealt a body blow when both New Zealand and England pulled out of their tours citing security concerns.
Considering those off-the-field setbacks, the team’s performance at the T20 World Cup was admirable. Unbeaten in the group stage, Pakistan lost to eventual champions Australia in the semifinals.
Australia had to endure a gut wrenching defeat at the hands of India in the beginning of 2021 but the end could not have gotten any better as they retained the Ashes with a complete annihilation of England in the first three Tests.