Topsy-turvy year for cricket
Indian cricket went through another tumultuous year on and off the field with a controversy that shook the very foundation of the game’s governing body in the country, BCCI, which refused to die down after raising several tough questions for its beleaguered president N Srinivasan.
The world of cricket was also rocked by the tragic demise of Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes who succumbed to the internal injuries sustained after being hit by a Sean Abbott bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game. Batting on 63, Hughes crashed onto the pitch after taking the nasty blow and was rushed to St. Vincent’s hospital in Sydney on November 25. The Sheffield Shield matches were immediately suspended. The batsman was kept in induced coma but he never regained consciousness and passed away on 27th, three days ahead of his 26th birthday. The schedule of the Border-Gavaskar trophy was reworked to accommodate for the funeral and in a moving gesture Cricket Australia also changed Hughes’ final score to 63 not out.
Back home, Srinivasan was under the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons, throughout the year, as his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was implicated by the Mudgal Committee report in the IPL betting and match-fixing scandal. He himself faced several embarrassing, potentially image-damaging questions before the Supreme Court and was forced, after seeking the apex court’s permission, to postpone the BCCI annual general meeting (AGM) and elections till Jan 31, 2015.
He also faced the uncomfortable task of addressing the contentious ‘conflict of interest’ issue since he continued to defiantly hold on to the BCCI post as well as owning the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) IPL team. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s name also cropped up in the report after his deposition to the committee was found to deviate from reality as Meiyappan was a prominent team official and not just a ‘cricket enthusiast’.
While off-the-field events kept the BCCI busy, its team’s on-field performance also began on a wrong note, losing its away two-match Test series against New Zealand 0-1 and the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series 0-4.
The team’s form nosedived further in the Asia Cup final in Bangladesh and the subsequent Twenty20 World Cup, getting outplayed in the final by Sri Lanka. The lucrative IPL gave players and the fans the option of forgetting their sorrows with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), arguably the tournament’s most glamorous team, lifting the trophy for the second time. But that proved to be a temporary reprieve as the team’s misery continued in its tour of England, losing both the Test and ODI series, 1-3. India sought comfort at home against the West Indies and led 2-1 in the four-match ODI series when the touring side, embroiled in a payment dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the players union, called off the remainder of the tour with a Twenty20 and three Test matches still to be played.
The BCCI took legal action against the sudden decision as it lost a considerable amount of money, suspending all further tours of the West Indies until further notice and slapped a Rs 250 crore ($40 million) compensation claim on the WICB. The hurriedly arranged five-match ODI series with Sri Lanka not only eased BCCI’s financial loss but also helped the team return to winning ways as it thrashed the admittedly under-prepared visitors 5-0. Indian batsman made merry to topple several records, the prominent of all being batsman Rohit Sharma’s 264 in Kolkata, the highest individual score in an ODI. The series whitewash, however, failed restore the team’s confidence before the ongoing away series against Australia. India lost the first Test by 48 runs and was led by stand-in skipper Virat Kohli as Dhoni failed to recover from a right thumb injury. Kohli’s own form was impressive though, becoming only the second cricketer to hit tons in each innings of his debut Test as captain.
The team’s World Cup preparations began with a fresh endeavour, with the axing of 2011 Cup-winning team’s famous quintet, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir, from the provisional 30-member squad. The other member of the Cup-lifting squad, Sachin Tendulkar, was also dragged into a controversy, as his autobiography Playing It My Way revealed his version of events during the infamous Greg Chappell’s era as coach of the national team.
Highlights of the year
Mudgal Committee on betting and match-fixing in the 2013 IPL implicates BCCI president N. Srinivasan’s
Son-in-law and asks the president to explain his
Stance in the conflict of interest issue
West Indies controversially pulls out from its India tour
Tendulkar releases autobiography ‘Playing it my Way’
Rohit Sharma sets record for highest individual ODI score 264
Big five’ omitted from 2015 World Cup probables squad
Tragic death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes after being hit by a bouncer
South Africa greats Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis retire