Five Indian cricketers for whom 2020 could be a make or break year
As a new year begins, Indian cricket team’s quest for complete domination takes centre stage yet again. They say ’make hay while the sun shines’ and this idiom fits the current Indian cricket team the best. With two ICC titles, several business end finishes in global tournaments and a long run on top of the Test rankings, the previous decade belonged to India. But how much of history did this team manage to create?
It goes without saying that India are the strongest cricketing nation in terms of talent pool and infrastructure currently. The bench strength is as good as any of the other top teams, if not better, and a robust administration has ensured world class facilities for players of all age group.
Only two teams have dominated world cricket till date. The West Indies of the 70s and 80s and the Australian sides of the late 90s and the 2000s. India aims to replicate that in this decade and for that they need match winners. Here are five players who we feel will have a make or break year in 2020.
1) Rishabh Pant
With MS Dhoni in the twilight of his international career, Indian selectors and the team management has thrown its weight behind the young Rishabh Pant. Known for his power-hitting, Pant was seen as a natural successor to Dhoni across formats. The youngster started well, but has been bogged down by poor performances. His glove-work needs massive improvement and that has seen him lose his Test spot to the veteran Wriddhiman Saha.
Pant though is a clear choice in limited overs cricket but his temperament has left a lot to be desired for. He has failed to push the run-rate lower down the order more often than not and his finishing skills are suspect too. In a year that will see the T20 World Cup, Pant needs to up his game to cement his position as India’s number one wicket-keeper batsman.
2) KL Rahul
One look at KL Rahul and you would know this is a special talent. Considered a Test specialist at the start of his career, Rahul has metamorphosed into a prolific limited overs batsman. But that has come at the cost of a shaky technique in the longest format. With Rohit Sharma reborn as a Test opener and buddy Mayank Agarwal going from strength to strength, Rahul has his work cut out in red ball cricket.
In limited overs cricket, Rahul remains the third choice opener behind Dhawan and Rohit and with Shreyas Iyer rising in prominence at the number 4 slot, Rahul needs to put in good performance in the opportunities that he gets.
3) Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Not long ago Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the go to bowler for the Indian captain in crisis situations. But the rise of Jasprit Bumrah and resurrection of Mohammed Shami has seen Bhuvi fall down the pecking order. Injuries too have played a part and Bhuvneshwar’s position is under scanner.
Bhuvneshwar used the IPL as his comeback vehicle to prominence in Indian cricket. The years 2016 and 2017 were his best and he established himself in the limited overs squad. He needs to do the same this year. With Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini impressing with the ball, and Bumrah back from injury, Bhuvneshwar runs the risk of not making the cut for the ICC T20 World Cup.
4) Ravichandran Ashwin
It feels strange to add Ravichandran Ashwin’s name to this list. Apart from Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble, Ashwin is the biggest match winner with the ball that India has ever seen and yet he finds himself at crossroads in his international career at the age of 33.
With his white ball international career showing no signs of a revival as the young finger spinners continue to do well, Ashwin has pretty much been limited to producing heroics with the ball in Test cricket. But the rise of India’s pace battery means his chances of playing Test matches outside the sub-continent are also in decline, as we saw in the Caribbean last year. Ashwin thus needs to be at the top of his game in the opportunities that he gets and keep proving his credentials as India top match winner.
5) Kuldeep Yadav
He was the biggest success story of Indian cricket in 2017 and 2018 and was expected to be the man who would make the difference for India in the 2019 ICC World Cup. But unluckily for Kuldeep Yadav, his wicket-taking form deserted him just before and during the showpiece event. Ravindra Jadeja’s resurgence as a bowler who can bat has also hurt the chinaman and Kuldeep needs to produce his A game to hold on to his slot in limited overs cricket. His spin twin Yuzvendra Chahal being his biggest rival currently.