Terror hits cricket, but India rises to number one

  • IANS, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Dec 24, 2009 15:29 IST

Seventy-seven years after playing their first Test, India realised its ultimate dream of becoming the numero uno in Test cricket and in the process celebrated their 100th Test win beating Sri Lanka in the home turf. The feat came in a year when terror hit cricket on the subcontinent.

Sri Lankan players were ambushed in broad daylight while on their way to Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium. It made the cricketing world wake up to the stark reality that security was of utmost concern for players on tours.

Pakistan became a no-travel zone for cricketing nations and led to their losing the right to co-host the 2011 World Cup with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Individually, Sachin Tendulkar's brilliance continued to captivate the cricketing world even 20 years after he stepped into the international scene in 1989.

He also crossed the milestone of 17,000 ODI runs with a masterful 175 against Australia in Hyderabad on the 5th of November, rolling back the years.

However, India's performance in ODIs and 20-20 dipped. Their early exit from the Champions Trophy and 20-20 World Cup - Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys were the defending champions - drew a lot of flak.

For the diehard Indian fan though, most rewarding was the tag of World No.1 in Tests. In the last 14 months, India have not lost a single Test and won the series against Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

In April, India won a Test series in New Zealand after 41 years.

The stand-out performance came from Gautam Gambhir for the second successive year. Gambhir, who won the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Test player of the year award, started from where he left off, knocking four successive Test centuries, each producing a flavour of its own either to win or save a Test.

His marathon knock at Napier in March will remain etched in memory as the one that gave a glimpse of a great Test cricketer. Gambhir batted close to 11 hours for his 137 to save India the Test and perhaps the series by snatching a draw from the brink of an innings defeat.

The historic 10-wicket victory at Hamilton, built around Tendulkar's 160 and Harbhajan Singh's six-wicket haul, seemed so distant when India were following on at Napier and with more than two days left in the match. But Gambhir stood like a rock, prompting Virender Sehwag to dub him the 'second wall' of Indian batting.

It could not have been more heartening for Indian cricket as three veterans Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S Laxman (124) batted around Gambhir.

India played their next Test series after seven months in November, but were up to the task, beating Sri Lanka 2-0. Both the victories, at Kanpur and Mumbai, were by an innings and came against the quality bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan.

Gambhir hit two more centuries against Sri Lanka.

Sehwag, however, was the domineering batsmen, stroking an explosive century at Kanpur and then standing on the verge of history in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. Sehwag would have left behind Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara to become the only batsmen to knock three triple centuries, but fell seven runs short of the mark.

India became only the third country after Australia and South Africa to top the ICC Test rankings since its introduction in 2001.

Tendulkar said it was a journey that began with South African coach Gary Kirsten taking on the coaching reins during the controversial Australian series in early 2008. The Perth victory was perhaps the one that galvanised the team into a fighting bunch.

However, India lost the home series against Australia 4-2 in October. Dhoni's captaincy also came under the scanner for the first time and there were reports of a rift in the team during the T20 World Cup that saw him parading his team before the media in a show of solidarity.

Elsewhere, Australia lost their second consecutive Ashes series in England. Pakistan, starved of international cricket after the Lahore attack, won the 20-20 World Cup by beating Sri Lanka.

Australia showed that they still were the dominant team as they won the Champions Trophy beating New Zealand.


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