Indian cricket and the players of Team India have completed a long season in the “Bio Bubble” in these unprecedented times of Covid starting with the IPL in the UAE to the long tour of Australia and ending with the equally long and trying series against England at home. Now the players embark on another season of the IPL, this time at home amongst increasing numbers of Covid positive patients and one hopes the aspirations and expectations of the cricket loving people of India are met and we have a safe and successful IPL.
The long season had its highs and lows starting with an incident free and successful IPL. The tour of Australia had the record-breaking low of India being shot out for 36! With the pink ball Test ending before the dinner break on the third day to the unforgettable highs of the exciting draw at Sydney and the memorable win at Brisbane, this was some series. The series saw almost all the players in the extended touring party getting an opportunity to showcase their talent due to injuries and India came back with the men being separated from the boys and new Test players discovered.
The series against England was a riveting one with India on a high after their performance in Australia but being made to eat humble pie in the first Test at Chennai. They bounced back immediately, winning the second Test at the same venue but on a different surface and then went onto win the pink ball Test at Ahmedabad in two days leading to a lot of talk about the quality of the wicket provided. This was laid to rest in the very next Test when India won comprehensively again. The English were left questioning the effectiveness of their rotation policy and their adaptability to the conditions.
The white ball leg of the tour again provided for enthralling cricket with India winning the T-20 series 3-2 and the ODI’s in Pune by 2-1. All the ODI’s saw scores in excess of 300 being posted by India with England chasing down 335 in 44 overs in the second ODI and almost scoring the runs against all adds in the third game, falling short by a mere 6 runs. This ODI series saw the English spinners out bowl the Indian purveyors of spin, casting a shadow on the effectiveness of Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya as frontline spinners. Perhaps India could have been better served if players like Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Surya Yadav and Chahal were played in the ODIs.
A lot of questions have been asked after this tour, and one again waits with bated breath to see which new player emerges from the IPL. The season saw the demise of Prithvi Shaw as a Test opener the arrival of Gill, who looked so good after the tour of Australia, but was found out in just his second series, with new demons that have crept into his mind. The tour of Australia showed the amazing captaincy qualities of Ajinkya Rahane, India not having lost a single Test, when he has been in charge. However, his success as a captain has not been translated in his batting which does not inspire confidence like it should have. The season saw the re-emergence of K.L. Rahul in the ODIs after a lay off due to injury and a horror run in the T-20 series. New talent in the form of Ishan Kishan and Surya Yadav were brought to the fore. Rishabh Pant further enhanced his reputation as the number one wicket keeper- batsman for India.
Now the players are back in the “Bio Bubble” for the IPL with their franchises. This cannot be easy, something that has been stressed on by the Indian captain. Having to be with the same people for an extended period of time has its advantages, as a lot of conversations between players, which would not have taken place in the normal course, happen which helps to clear the air and a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided by the process of “communication” which is the most important “C” in any relationship. The Bubble also helps to drown out the “outside chatter” which can affect the players as was so elaborately indicated by Rahul when he reached his long-awaited century in the second ODI. But, being in the bubble must mean for insecurities festering in the minds of players who are going through a lean patch or are not able to get a break in the playing eleven.
Let us all hope and pray that the IPL is incident free as the cricket loving public in India is craving for some joy in these trying times.
(Raju Mehta is a former First Class cricketer, the views expressed here are personal)