On Guru Greg
One could well have called him an honorary Indian after the Winter exploits in 2005. Brought in to give fillip to Indian World Cup hopes, Greg Chappell did inspire the men in blue to great heights in the ODIs. After losing the Peshawar ODI, the Indian team went up another gear to win four in a row and beat Pakistan most convincingly.
The same fairytale continued against England and a new hero emerged in Raina. But then the decline started, and the Australian's experimentations with the young blood were repeatedly questioned.
The turnaround started on May 20 with the West Indies snatching a win from the jaws of defeat and then going on to beat India 4-1. There was no respite as one of the favourites failed to make it to the final of the Malaysian tri-series, and the semifinal of the Champions Trophy.
Both times, the Australia-West Indies combination spelt its nadir. Failure to win a single ODI in South Africa was the final nail in the coffin, which led to the comebacks of Laxman (in final ODI) and Sourav, possibly for future ODIs as well.
In Test Arena, India did notch up two remarkable wins - One-nil series victory in the West Indies after a gap of 35 years and its first ever test win in South Africa at Johannesburg, which could even help it to a series win in the first week of 2007. However, with assignment specially to win the World Cup 2007, Greg may find the going tough in next three months.
As expected, and in sync with his past results against Pakistan, Sehwag started with a bang against the archrivals. But then, unexpectedly, started his string of low scores in Tests. His massive knock of 254 at Lahore in his very first innings of the year turned out to be the biggest visual illusion of the year.
Out of 21 Test innings played this year, just two 50 plus and 2 hundred plus scores do show the decline of once a wrecker-de-chief.
Sehwag in Tests in 2006
Sehwag's favourite strokes, cuts and slashes which once fetched him fours and sixes in abundance, now get safely lapped up by the alert slip cordon. His feet never moved before, but legendry hand-eye coordination too is falling apart.
With World Cup in sight, selectors might still be tempted to continue with the beleaguered opener. Especially as he scored two ninety plus score in the West Indies ODIs. But, this once fondly dubbed the Predator, will have to come up with some really big scores to win back the confidence of a nation.
Proven performer, patchy performances
Tendular is a very extraordinary batsman, with a very ordinary year. It is remarkable how he has been carrying the weight of the expectations of an entire nation on his shoulders for last 17 years.
That is why, the lasting image of a despondent Tendulkar, castled by Asif in Karachi on February one, still haunts the fans. And a reckless jab to the wicketkeeper at Durban, when looking good for a century eluding him for last one year, would have done no good to the confidence of his fans.
Absence from cricket for a big part of the year has not helped the Mumbaikar. Though he did well in the ODIs in Pakistan scoring a century and missing one by five runs. But missing the entire West Indies tour where India tasted a rare Test win, must have left sore taste in the mouth. That tour could have been an ideal opportunity to get the form back.
Tendulkar has spent 14 innings, may be 15 at the end of Durban Test, waiting for his 36th century, the longest wait of his career.
Other longest waits for Tendulkar's hundred
|13||253||19.46||between 31st and 32nd|
|13||437||33.61||before first hundred|
|11||269||24.45||between 10th and 11th|
Bomber goes back to Baroda
When Javed Miandad taunted him in 2004 that ''aise bowlers to Pakistan ki galli-galli mein milte hain'' (Such bowlers are found in abundance on the streets of Pakistan), Irfan Pathan came up with a befitting reply in Multan test where his six wickets helped India to their first win on Pakistan soil.
The dream run continued and a hat trick in Karachi Test this year further reinforced his reputation as India's prime strike bowler. Pathan's feat of claiming a hat-trick in the first over of a match was the first-ever in the Test chronicles
But things, as with so many players, changed beginning the West Indies tour.
From Hat trick to Ranji -- the fall was perceptible. Greg's favourite at Number three did not disappoint with his batting, but lost considerably in pace and swing with the ball.
After the West Indies tour, in only two ODIs out of eight that he played, Irfan's economy rate was less than six. It was an inexplicable collapse in both pace and rhythm, which spelt nadir for him
Rubbing salt to the injury, Irfan was sent back to India to get back his form in domestic cricket. Unfortunately, not much times is left for him to make amends. Chances are he might still be called for ODIs as his bowling, if he starts finding edges again, could make all the difference in the West Indies.
Runs to Ruins
An average of 27 in 34 ODIs is not too bad. Especially considering the tricky position Raina bats at.
But it starts to look bad once you realize that 242 of his 589 ODI runs have come from just one six-match series against England.
In an era where you are only as good as your last performance, just 108 runs of his last eight innings made an exit inevitable. That he was being touted as a substitute for Sourav Ganguly did no good to his confidence either.
This UP batsman had promised so much in March-April with three fifties against England in a most convincing performance of his career. Alas, it was too good to last.
Dravid failing to score too many runs, a now on now off Kaif, Harbhajan becoming little costly in ODIs and getting edged out by Kumble in tests, and Munaf spending more time in rehabilitation than bowling were the other disappointments of the year, where in ODIs India went from top to flops, while doing a fine balancing act in the Test Arena.