With the Indian team having performed admirably in the year just gone by it is tempting to graze at the crystal ball and find out how they will fare in 2010.
A few predictions can be made but perhaps it will be apt to begin with the possible scenario in the fight for top spot. The situation is so intriguing that it is impossible not to speculate. India are scheduled to play seven Tests next year against South Africa, Bangladesh and New Zealand (with two more against Zimbabwe still to be confirmed) and at the moment it does look doubtful whether Dhoni and his men will hold on to the No 1 spot for too long. Even with the late inclusion of the South Africa Tests the odds certainly are against India for the gap between them and Graeme Smith’s men is just two points. A series win against Bangladesh will not count for much but then South Africa are struggling to hold their own against England and this is to India’s advantage. The chances of Australia making it back to the top too cannot be ruled out. Currently occupying the third spot their advantage they have already commenced their fightback with victories over West Indies and Pakistan. In addition they have a contest against New Zealand coming up shortly. India’s big chance to keep their newly acquired numero uno slot would be victory over South Africa for their three Test series against New Zealand is late in the year. All in all the stage is set for a pretty interesting tussle on the cards over the next few months.
Now for the predictions and it can be said straightaway that there is unlikely to be much change as regards the composition of the Indian Test team. The first seven in the batting order should remain the same while Dhoni will continue as skipper. The batting will retain its lustre even as the famous trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman enter the twilight of their careers. That there will not be any retirements can be predicted quite safely. Virender Sehwag will continue to blaze away, Gautam Gambhir will continue to be among the runs while hopefully Yuvraj Singh will once and for all consolidate his position in the middle order. It remains to be seen though whether Dhoni will continue to be the man with the Midas touch.
Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh will remain the pace and spin spearheads and there are likely to be minor changes in their partners. The bench strength is strong and that is another encouraging factor for Indian cricket. There are a number of pace bowling hopefuls around while young spinners like Pragyan Ojha, Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra have already proved their mettle. Murali Vijay and S Badrinath are the front runners to fill the batting slots should they fall vacant for one reason or the other.
As far as ODIs are concerned India are second in the rankings a fair bit behind Australia. But there are a number of such games in 2010 and that could work out in India’s favour. Here too the team wears a well settled look and there is unlikely to be major changes in the composition. Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir at the top followed by the likes of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj and the captain. Again there are a number of contenders for the fast bowlers’ slots while Harbhajan will remain the spin king. A couple of new faces however could find a place as the selectors have made it clear that their long term plan is to build a winning side for the 2011 World Cup to be held in the sub continent. How the Indian team fares in 2010 would be a pointer as to whether it has a realistic chance of regaining the trophy they have won only once in 1983.
As far as cricket’s newest and shortest format goes the Indians have a chance of winning back the trophy they won in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. They certainly would be keen to do well in the Caribbean to wipe out the unhappy memories of this year’s World Cup held in England when they made an early exit. And finally it can safely be predicted that the third edition of the IPL will garner a lot of attention from media, the fans and sponsors alike.