Tuesday, March, 21,2023


There’s an old saying that well begun is half done! Team India has done just that by kicking off 2023 in grand style by clean sweeps in the two ODI series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand respectively. The wins have catapulted India to the top of the ODI rankings surpassing England – and as they are already World No 1 in T20s. The Men in Blue have become the best white-ball team in the world though they haven’t won any ICC trophy for nearly a decade. Later this year, India hosts the 50-over World Cup and any series before that is preparation for the grand event where the entire nation will pray overtime for Rohit & Co to repeat the success of the Dhoni brigade in 2011.

While 2022 ended with a bang as Ishan Kishan brought up his maiden double century in the ODI series against Bangladesh, the new year has seen another young Indian - Shubman Gill- becoming a part of the coveted list of batsmen to score double hundreds in ODI games. Gill has been in sparkling form and hit three centuries in the six ODI games in 2023 and was chosen the Player of the Series against New Zealand.

Besides individual brilliance, the series wins over the Lankans and the Kiwis have showcased the might of Indian batting. The team has repeatedly knocked up 300 plus scores batting first and fans were thrilled to see the two established superstars Rohit and Virat regain their midas touch too. But the discovery of young superstars - Shubhman Gill and Ishan Kishan - is the cherry on Indian winnings. The team’s attacking template has been set by the team management and both the batsmen fit into that mindset comfortably. Shubman’s phenomenal successes in recent matches has only confirmed his class and pedigree as a very special batsman. With Rishabh Pant ousted for a few months due to his road accident, Ishan Kishan is now a vital cog in his absence as a keeper-batsman for the team though many would like to see Sanju Samson also being given a fair run in the team to prove his credentials.

So stunning has been the Indian batting display that there is now a strong competition for the number 4 slot between Shreyas Iyer and Suryamkumar Yadav. KL Rahul recovered some touch which nudged him ahead of Kishan in the middle order as he can be an alternative wicket keeper too. While Shreyas Iyer was out from the New Zealand series due to injury, Suryakumar wasted his chances. With his recent success, he is a huge crowd favourite and to reaffirm the faith that the fans have in him, Surya needs to discover a special gear for the ODIs as he seems stuck in playing T20 style even in the longer 50-over format.

Though India’s wins look mighty impressive, the bowling remains a bit of a concern. Lanka nearly chased down a 350 plus score in one game after having lost the top order cheaply and more recently, New Zealand almost came up trumps in the first match of the series and lost by barely 12 runs despite India’s mammoth 350 plus target. At one point, they were 6 wickets down needing 200 plus runs but the fact that they managed to reach so close reflects the weakness of the Indian bowling pack to close out games.

It’s not gloom and doom story for the bowling line up, however, as there have been several ticks in the right direction too. One bright spot has been the rise of Mohammad Siraj who was penetrative in most spells. His form has taken him to the number 1 position in ODI world rankings. Also, the revival of Kuldeep Yadav in the white ball format has been a talking point. He has taken wickets in the crucial middle overs, a huge shortcoming in the last two T20 World Cups where India lost vital games without picking up a single wicket.

Kuldeep’s success also points out the importance of wrist spinners in the game. They provide an attacking option for the captain during middle overs to pick up wickets. As such, not only Yuzvendra Chahal, even Ravi Bishnoi needs to be given more chances to prove their mettle.

In July 2023, it will be a decade since Team India won any ICC trophy. If excelling in bilateral series and rising to number 1 in the ODI format is any indication, the Men in Blue now look ready to grab ICC glory that has eluded them for many years!


SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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