Glimpses 2019: A bright year for Indian cricket dimmed by World Cup heartbreak

It was King Kohli's year. And a World Cup win would have been the crowning glory

kohli-rohit-shami (From left) Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami

It was the year of 'King Kohli'. And a World Cup triumph would have been the crowning glory for the Team India captain. But it was not to be, as the Indian team suffered a heart-breaking 18-run loss against New Zealand in the semifinal of the 50-over World Cup.

The Kiwis then had to bear an agony of their own when England won the title on a better boundary count after regulation as well as super over scores ended tied. The affable Kane Williamson's painfully blank expression after that crushing loss said it all.

If winning a Test series in Australia for the first time in over seven decades was a high for Team India, the semifinal loss extended their now six-year-old jinx in ICC tournaments.

The World Cup blemish aside, Kohli had a largely flawless year, raking up 2,455 runs across formats—13 more than his limited-overs deputy Rohit Sharma (2,442 runs), who rediscovered himself in Tests as an opener.

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India in Tests in 2019

In whites, Team India followed up the historic 2-1 series-win in Australia with clean sweeps against the West Indies (2-0), South Africa (3-0) and Bangladesh (2-0), to be comfortably seated at the top of the ICC World Test Championships with 360 points.

With legendary India skipper Sourav Ganguly taking over as the BCCI president after three controversy-marred years under the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, a path-breaking reign began off the field, during which the country finally embraced Pink Ball Tests.

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Another highlight for India in Test cricket this year, was the stupendous performance of their pace unit, which overshadowed the spinners at home. Mohammed Shami was India's highest wicket-taker in 2019 Tests, with 33 scalps from 8 matches, followed by Ishant Sharma (25 from 6) and Umesh Yadav (23 from 4). Jasprit Bumrah was unavailable after the West Indies series.

Among the batsmen, Mayank Agarwal (754 runs from 8 matches) was the top run-getter, followed by Ajinkya Rahane (642) and Kohli (612).

But the real test lies ahead, as India embark on tours to New Zealand and Australia in 2020, with no Test at home.

India in ODIs in 2019

India were one of the favourites going into the World Cup but “half an hour of madness”, as Kohli put it, dashed all their hopes—they were reduced to 5/3 in the semifinal against New Zealand, from which they tried to recover but failed. With the focus of T20s because of the World Cup next year, India played just two ODI series after the 50-over World Cup—both against the West Indies, one at home and one there. They won 2-0 as visitors and 2-1 at home.

While Rohit Sharma topped the batting charts with 1,490 runs in 28 matches followed by Kohli (1,377 in 26), Shami was the highest wicket-taker, taking 42 scalps in 21 matches.

In the shorter formats, the wait for a final word on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's future continues, as the former World Cup-winning captain went on a sabbatical after the semifinal exit. With neither Dhoni nor the selectors offering much clarity on the issue (though chief selector MSK Prasad had said that they have moved on from the 38-year-old), it remains to be seen whether he will find a place in the squad for the T20 World Cup next year.

India's woes behind the stumps continues as Rishabh Pant struggles to fill in the big shoes of Dhoni. The number 4 position conundrum, however, looks more or less settled with a consistent Shreyas Iyer making it his own.

India in T20Is in 2019

All eyes will be on this format with the T20 World Cup in Australia scheduled in October-November 2020. Team India had a mixed bag in T20Is in 2019, winning nine and losing seven. They are still heavily dependent on Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who scored 466 runs in 10 matches, and 390 in 14 matches respectively this year, and on Bumrah in bowling.

Team India will play eight T20Is before the IPL 2020 begins, and hopefully, the rest of the playing XI will put up their hands and lessen the burden on the shoulders of these three.

The IPL this year, was a nail-biting affair, with Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians winning a record fourth title, beating defending champions Chennai Super Kings led by Dhoni, by one run in the final.

Indian women's cricket team in 2019

What Kohli has been to the men's cricket team, Smriti Mandhana has been to the women's team. Expectedly, she was named in both the ODI and T20I teams of 2019 by the ICC. The 23-year-old has played 51 ODIs and 66 T20Is for India, besides a couple of Test matches. She has combined tally of 3,476 runs in T20Is and ODIs. In fact, she started the year as the no. 1 batswoman as per the ICC rankings, and is currently at the fifth position.

The women's team had a fairly successful year, winning the ODI series against New Zealand, England, South Africa and the West Indies. In T20Is, the Indian women clinched the series against South Africa and the West Indies but lost against England 3-0.

The year also saw the rise of 15-year-old Shafali Verma, whose entry into the T20 team coincided with the retirement of veteran Mithali Raj from the shorter format of the game. She has already become the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar's 30-year-old record, hitting a 49-ball 73 in the first T20I against West Indies—only her fifth T20I.