Indian cricket in 2021: What’s ahead?
After a relatively barren first six months of 2020 Indian cricket went to a busy period since September with the start of Indian Premier League at UAE. The IPL was immediately followed by key Indian players travelling to Australia for playing One Day Internationals, T20 Internationals and Test matches.
After a 2-1 win by Australia in ODIs followed by an Indian victory in the T20I series with the same margin, the test matches became quite dramatic. A memorable Indian victory as MCG followed a horrible Indian batting collapse at Adelaide. With Indian team currently playing their first Test match of 2021 let us look at what else this year has in store for the star-studded side.
Busy international schedule
This will be a busy year for team India with quite a few bilateral series at home and away. There will also be multi-nation tournaments like Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and ICC World T20 at home. It gives them a chance to complete a hat-trick of winning the Asia Cup and win another ICC trophy after their last one in 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. They lost the T20 World Cup final in 2014 and lost at the semi-final stage in 2015 and the 2019 50-over World Cup and 2016 World T20. This time they would hope to reach the final and claim the trophy at home.
One of the biggest Test series will be England’s India tour in February-March for 4 Tests, 4 ODIs and 4 T20Is. India will also make a return visit to the United Kingdom to play 5 Test matches around English summer. India will play 2 more Test matches at home against New Zealand and 3 matches in South Africa around the end of the year. They are also scheduled to play limited over series against Zimbabwe away and South Africa at home. Overall, there are possible 109 days of international cricket scheduled for Indian stars.
Ashwin-Jadeja duo to watch out for
Quite a few youngsters are going by the recent performances which will look to cement their place in the first eleven. But there are quite a few experienced campaigners who look to find a new game area and expected to make a big impact in 2021.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s duo will play a key role for team India in the coming days. Ashwin has bowled brilliantly in the first two Test matches in Australia and looked like a very potent weapon for India even in overseas condition. Ashwin is always a thinking cricketer and looks like he has added more new variations to create a problem for opponent batsmen.
Jadeja, on the other hand, proved his all-round capability during the last 18 month’s period. His performance in all bat and ball formats was noteworthy and comparable with some of the game’s best all-rounders. Jadeja’s improved batting has given India the flexibility to play five bowlers and use a two-spinner strategy even overseas. They will be a vital cog for India in the upcoming England series at home.
New stars, few redemptions
If everything goes fine, Jasprit Bumrah will finally make his home Test match debut in 2021, three years after his international debut. How he performs in spin-friendly conditions at home will be something to look out for.
Shubman Gill will be the most followed one after his impressive debut during the Boxing Day Test match among the new players. Fans will also be interested in T Natarajan’s growth in white-ball cricket and Mohammed Siraj in red-ball cricket. Shreyas Iyer and Hardik Pandya will keep fighting to make themselves essential for the limited-overs teams and also hope for Test team call-ups at some point in time.
There will be few more hopeful players who would hope for their return in the team or international debuts. Players like Surya Kumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Ishan Porel, Rahul Chahar and even Prithvi Shaw would look to make their mark in IPL or domestic cricket for a chance to play for Team India.
Kohli under focus
Virat Kohli will also be back after a ‘year without century’ after more than 10 years in 2020. He would love to find his groove back soon and scoring a few ones in all formats. India’s busy schedule and that too with a number of matches scheduled for home, this year Virat Kohli should come at his best.
The captain Kohli will have a lot in hands as well while the batsman is expected to add loads of runs totally. Kohli’s captaincy came to radar quite a few times. Moreover, Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy in the second Test match once again made people talk about split captaincy for the Indian cricket team. Many suggest Rahane take responsibility for Tests, especially overseas and Rohit Sharma, to be handed over with the limited-overs captaincy.
Rohit Sharma’s record as Mumbai Indians skipper in Indian Premier League speaks for his mettle as the leader. So, this year is going to be an important one for Kohli, the skipper. Virat Kohli would love to prove the critics wrong and make a strong come back both as batter and skipper.
IPL at home
Although the fear of COVID-19 is still there, especially with the second strain reported from the UK, with a vaccine in site, it is expected that the things will start going back to normal by March-April. Based on the fantastic bio-bubble experienced in IPL 2020, fans can be hopeful for home-IPL this time.
This will mean that the players would not have to travel outside the country and play in the known grounds around India’s various parts. Although the pandemic will push the mega-auction and the inclusion of the new teams to 2022, at least there could be limited attendance from the fans. We have already seen a few countries opening the stadia for the fans, India cannot wait longer for sure. Well, hopefully!
This is one area which needs a lot more focus from BCCI. Although the men’s cricket has started post-pandemic, the women’s cricket got a hit, and the only action for players like Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma was the four-match Women’s IPL Challenge.
However, it lost much of its glory this year as it clashed with Women’s Big Bash League. Even the upcoming Australia tour for the women cricketers was also cancelled, and no other series is planned for 2021.
The players who took team India to the final of the Women’s World T20 In Australia just before the COVID-19 pandemic, deserve much better handling from the Indian cricket board. With the women’s 50-over World Cup pushed to 2022, the team needs some exposer and key series to build their team for the most coveted trophy. They were also the runner’s up in the last 50-over World Cup in the UK.