A successful yet forgettable year for India

2006 Jan 01 by DreamCricket

For India, a splendid report card is blurred by politics and a weaker than usual opposition.

With just eight Test matches and 27 ODIs, this was a somewhat light international year for the team.

And while on the face of it, 15 wins in ODIs, five Test victories and just one defeat may appear to be a positive outcome, the quality of opposition in the second half of the year meant not much could be read into the report card.

Yes, India won a Test series abroad for the first time since 1986 outside Asia. But the abysmal state of Zimbabwe cricket meant the achievement was totally devalued.

In India too, without the services of stalwart opener Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka were a shadow of their usual selves and rolled over easily in two of the three Test matches. The score-line in the ODI series was crushing 6-1 for India.

Still, winning at home came as a relief considering the year began with the disappointing show against Pakistan. Though the Test series was drawn 1-1, it felt more like a defeat and losing the ODI series 2-4 came as a bitter blow. It also signaled the beginning of the end of Ganguly's reign.

After acting as a stand-in captain every time Ganguly suffered an injury or faced an ICC ban, it was finally time for Rahul Dravid to be formally handed the reins of power.

With new coach Greg Chappell by his side, ironically appointed by Ganguly and his godfather Jagmohan Dalmiya, the new pairing did particularly well to halt South Africa's brilliant run in ODIs.

There was more change at the top with Dalmiya's luck and manipulative methods finally hitting a dead-end at the hands of Sharad Pawar. But there is still no writing off the Kolkata strongman.

On the individual front, the highlight of the year was the return from injury of Sachin Tendulkar and his world record 35th Test century at the Kotla.

Not far behind was leg spinner Anil Kumble reaching the landmark of 100 Test matches at Ahmedabad, only the second spinner to achieve the feat. He remains India's greatest match winning spin bowler.

The low point undoubtedly was the melodrama surrounding Ganguly.

The leak of the coach's confidential e-mail castigating Ganguly, while Dalmiya was still virtually in charge of the BCCI really let the cat out of the bag and was the beginning of the depressing soap opera that dragged on through the year.

It was political arm-twisting at its worst which saw the ex-captain force his way back into the squad for Pakistan. And the ugly parochialism in his hometown over his earlier exclusions, culminating in shocking crowd scenes during the ODI against South Africa at the Eden Gardens, brought shame on a city that has long prided itself on its sporting passion.