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History of Indian cricket - 2000 till date

The start to the new millennium was not very auspicious for the Indian cricket team. They were engulfed in a series of match fixing scandals. However, as the years wore on, Indian cricket witnessed many enthralling victories and left the world bewildered.
Match fixing scandal

The period from April 2000 to January 2001 was one of the lowest points of Indian cricket. The game was engulfed in match fixing scandals with big names like Kapil Dev, Ajay Jadeja, Ajay Sharma and Mohammad Azharuddin in the line of fire.

It came to a point where India’s finest all-rounder and the man who was voted by Wisden as India’s cricketer of the century was seen shedding tears on a television channel and making statements like he regretted and was ashamed to have ever played the game of cricket.

After the Delhi Police found substantial proof against Hansie Cronje, the Pandora’s Box was opened. A few names have now been cleared, but many still await their clearance from the morbid affair.

India vs. Australia - 2001

This was a home series where the undulated fortunes of the Indian Team caused a flutter in more than a few hearts. After being blown away by the Aussies in the first Test in Mumbai, the Indians were with their backs against the wall in the second Test at Kolkatta.

A pathetic score line of 128 for 8 at the stumps on the second day, the officials as well as the fans were justifiably disgruntled. They could be forgiven for this terrible gaffe for they were mere mortals who could not foresee the miracle which gradually unfolded over the next three days.

Being made to follow on, the disgrace did not bow India down. V.V.S. Laxman rose to the occasion and made Eden Gardens his own. Along with Rahul Dravid he decimated the Aussie attack with his stylish drives. His knock of 281 was the highest score made by an Indian in Test cricket after which he was fondly nicknamed ‘Very Very Special Laxman.’ Another highlight of this match was Harbhajan Singh’s hat-trick which got him 13 wickets in the match and the title of ‘Turbanator’ by the Australians.

The Indians went on to win this match as well as the next one to clinch the series 2-1. The Kolkatta Test was only the third Test in history where a team being made to follow on, went on to win the match. This feat was earlier achieved in1894 by Andrew Stoddart’s England team and in 1981 by Mike Brearley’s England team against the Aussies in both the cases.

The Natwest Series – 2002

Little was it known that the summer of 2002 would change the entire outlook of the Indian team. Young blood injected an imperious zeal into the team. The two names that stole the show were Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif who chased down a record total of 326 in the Natwest final against the English.

Such was the fervor that the captain, Sourav Ganguly, took off his shirt in a much talked about incident which was termed as an immature act in a moment of joyful insanity.

World Cup – 2003

India had a poor run to World Cup in 2003 losing the series to New Zealand. In their opening match against Holland they did not do much to win any applauds. Though they went on to win the match, it was not without a few hiccups.

This was followed up by a horrific defeat against the Australians where the Indian team was blown away for a mere 125 runs on the board. The Aussies chased down the target without many hitches in a mere 22.2 overs. This led to a lot of hue and cry back in India where effigies of players were burnt out in the streets.

After this dismal performance, the Indians came up with good performances against Zimbabwe, England and Pakistan. Sachis Tendulkar’s 98 against the Pakistanis’ at more than a run a ball is considered one of the greatest innings ever played. The Indians played some good cricket and beat Kenya in the semi-finals to again face the Australians in the finals.

However, the Indians could not manage to come good in the finals and faltered from the very beginning. The Aussies were successful in putting up a record score of 359 with Ponting and Martyn both scoring centuries. India began the chase at the worst note possible with Sachin Tendulkar falling to Glenn McGrath in the very first over.

Even though Dravid and Sehwag tried to give some respectability to the Indian chase, they could not do much to bring India even close to the Aussie target.

India had a lot to take heart from the 2003 World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar was the Man of the tournament and the leading run scorer. Sourav Ganguly came second on the list next only to Tendulkar. The Indian pace trio of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath showed impressive performances throughout the tournament. The Indians won against all the teams they played against barring Australia who were the eventual winners of the Cup.

The series Down Under – 2003

In the Test series against Australia the Indian team was not given much of a chance to draw and virtually no chance to win. Even though the majority of first match at Brisbane was rained away, the Indian boys began on a strong note with an emphatic 144 by Ganguly.

The second Test was claimed by the mighty Australians. The third Test at Adelaide began with the Aussies posting a total well beyond 500 thereby logically shutting all doors to an unlikely loss.

The Indians reaffirmed the Aussie belief by losing the top order for less than a 100 on the board. With Dravid and Laxman beginning their stints at the crease not many gave India much of a chance to even draw the match.

But Laxman and Dravid had altogether other plans in mind. They toiled the whole day against the famous Aussie pace attack and at the end of the day left the Aussies sapped off all their energy.

It was a moment in history for all to savour when Rahul Dravid, who scored a double ton in the first innings, hit the winning runs and for the very few times ever, gave in to his emotions.

The Indians were at the brink of victory in the final Test at Sydney and just needed to get rid of the Aussie tail to stake claim to the trophy. But their dreams were left unfulfilled, many say due to some controversial lbw decisions by Steve Buckner that did not go in India’s favour.

India was successful in squaring the series which held its own importance because it was a series that marked the end of an era for Australian cricket with Steve Waugh taking retirement from international cricket.
India’s tour of Pakistan – 2003-04

India’s tour of Pakistan in 2004 was a result of diplomatic ties that were ensuing between the two countries. With the elections coming up, many thought it was a move by the NDA government to substantiate its ‘Feel Good’ mantra.

And feel good it was, with India going on to win both the Test and the One Day series in a highly electrifying match-up between the two giants of the subcontinent. Sehwag’s 309 in the first Test match at Multan set the tone for the series. The Indians went on to win that match even though the stand-in captain Rahul Dravid was severely criticized for declaring the first innings at a juncture which left Sachin Tendulkar stranded on 194 not out.

The second Test at Lahore saw the Pakistani’s level the series thanks to centuries by Imran Farhat and Inzamam-ul-Haq in the first innings. The Indians set the Pakistani’s a small target of 40 runs in the second innings which the Pakistani’s achieved in just 7 overs.

The third Test at Rawalpindi saw the Indians create history by winning against the Pakistani’s by an innings and 131 runs. Sound bowling from Balaji where he claimed 4 wickets and a score of 270 by Dravid in the first innings saw the Indians reach a score of 600 in reply to Pakistan’s first innings total of 224. This huge score by the Indians proved to be enough as the Pakistani’s were walloped away for 245 in the second innings.

Thus, the Indians won the 3-match series in Pakistan by a margin of 2 – 1.

The Ganguly saga – 2005 -06

Indian cricket had come to a point where one can break down the spat between the ‘God of the off-side’, Sourav Ganguly and the Indian coach, Greg Chappell as being not the core issue but merely a symptom. It is one of the great tragedies that Ganguly was a victim of the most-dreaded woe in Indian cricket: self-preservation.

Ultimately the coach had his way and Ganguly was well on his way out after a mediocre performance against the Pakistani’s when they came to India in 2006. His cause was further worsened by a minor injury that gave a chance to the selectors to ignore him for almost the entire year.

Ganguly did not give up and was recalled into the Test team for the tour of South Africa in the end of 2006.

The Sourav that returned to the squad appeared different to what he was when he left. There was determination and grit behind every shot that he played. He came back with a bang and was the top scorer for the Indian side in the Test series against South Africa which the Indians lost 1-2 in 2006-07.

Raw potential – Irfan Pathan

After Javagal Srinath retired from international cricket and Zaheer’s performance dwindling by the day, the Indian team was in dire need for a fast bowler who would spearhead the bowling attack. In came Irfan Pathan, all of 19 years of age and riding high on a glorious performance in the Under-19 match-up.

His swing had most of the top order batsmen in trouble. He was no novice with the bat either and has gracefully evolved into a much needed all-rounder in recent times. Pathan entered the record books with a hat-trick against Pakistan at Karachi in 2006.

However, all was not hunky dory for this lad from Baroda. The year 2006 saw his form drastically decline. At one point of time, he was in the team mainly for his batting and not for his bowling. Being the opening bowler and the spearhead of the team for a long time, this role didn’t suit him much.

After being given repeated chances to improve, Pathan failed to come up with the goods. The team management lost their patience and eventually dropped him from the squad. Pathan was disgracefully sent back home in the middle of the South African series in 2006-07 and was made to play in the domestic matches in the hope of regaining his form.

Wicket-keeper woes end – M.S Dhoni arrives on the scene

Hailing from a small town Ranchi in the state of Jharkhand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni exploded into the international domain through some hard-hitting which established him as a player who could effortlessly make the ball cross the boundary at regular intervals. His knock of 183 not out in 145 balls against Sri Lanka in Jaipur in 2005 tore the opposition into shreds and sent the onlookers into a state of shock.

With the arrival of Dhoni India could bid adieu to the tag of not being able to find a handy keeper in a country of a billion. Rahul Dravid, who had been keeping for the team for was instantly relieved of this added responsibility.

Dhoni lived up to the expectations of all and proved to be safe with the gloves and devastating with the bat.
Dravid – Chappell hold the reigns

With the sun setting on Sourav Ganguly’s and John Wrights’s tenure as captain and coach respectively, an era in Indian cricket came to an end. It was accompanied by the onset of a refreshing partnership between the master technician Rahul Dravid as the captain, and the Australian great, Greg Chappell as the coach.

This duo for starts gave due importance to the upcoming fast bowlers. Bowlers like R.P. Singh, V.R.V. Singh, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel were conditioned and then inducted into the team. However, with all the efforts going into building a young side, the experience bit was ignored.

This caused the Indian team to suffer greatly until the selectors put their foot down and recalled the likes of Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly back into the team. The Indian team under Dravid and Chappell has seen the two extremes of fortunes. They have achieved great heights but also crashed to despicable lows.

While Dravid has tried to marshal the available resources, Chappell has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. Despite this, the management has prolonged with this duo long enough, and it is now left to them to prove if they are good enough for the job.

A record of 17 successful run chases – 2006

The early part of the year 2006 saw the ODI team of India in spectacular form when they registered a streak of 17 successful run chases. This record ended rather abruptly in an anti-climax in May 2006 when the Indians went over to the West Indies and lost the ODI series 1-4.

End of a draught – Win in West Indies – 2006

The Indians went into the Caribbean wanting to achieve what they hadn’t been able to do so for the past 35 years- to win a Test series on Caribbean soil. The start to the tour was less than auspicious with the Indians going down 1- 4 in the ODI series.

Even though the matches were closely contested, the Indians did not go into the Tests with any morale backing. The first Test that took place in Antigua and Barbuda ended in a draw. The Indians piled up a score of 241 in the first innings which the West Indies replied by scoring 371 in their first innings.

The Indians, who were defamed for their batting in the second innings were yet again on flimsy grounds. However a gritty 212 from Wasim Jaffar saw that India did not succumb to the West Indians. They amassed a score of 521 runs setting a target of 392 for the West Indians to chase.

Despite a good opening partnership in the West Indies fourth innings, they could not make a bid for the target. The Indians almost sneaked through with a victory but the last stand for West Indies- F. Edwards and C. Collymore came good and steered the West Indian ship to safety.

The second Test at St. Lucia also ended with the Indians again running away with the moral victory. A swift 180 in 190 balls by Virender Sehwag along with centuries by Dravid and Kaif in the first innings saw the Indians amass a score of 588 runs. The West Indians were bundled away for 215 in the first innings and were made to follow on. However, the Indians failed to bowl them out in the second innings and the match ended in a draw.

The third match at St. Kitts saw the West Indies playing with more grit. Centuries from Ganga and Sarwan in the first innings took West Indies to a score of 581. A century in reply from VVS Laxman and good scores by Kumble and Harbhajan down the order made India avoid the follow on. The West Indies set a target of 392 for the Indians to chase. Although, the Indians could not chase the target, they also did not buckle under pressure and the match ended in a draw.

The fourth and the final Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica saw the fortunes swing from one side to the other. Till the final day nobody could predict who would run away with the accolades. The Indians started off in a modest fashion by scoring only 200 in their first innings. In reply, the West Indies were blown away for a mere 103 on the board. The Indians could only manage 171 runs in their second innings thanks to a determined 68 by Rahul Dravid. This left the match evenly poised with the West Indies being set a target of 269 runs in the final innings.

The spin king Anil Kumble made Jamaica his own by casting a spell on the pitch and spinning some magic on it. He claimed 6 of the West Indian wickets with Sreesanth chipping in with 3 of the top order. The West Indies were all out with 219 on the board and the Indians registered their first ever win in Jamaica by a margin of 49 runs.

Dalmiya’s morbid affair

Jagmohan Dalmiya, who was once voted by BBC as the world’s top six sports executives, was at the receiving end in 2006 when he was accused of ‘misappropriation of funds’ in the 1996 World Cup. He was ousted from the BCCI by a whopping margin of 29-2 votes. He is also known to be a staunch supporter of Sourav Ganguly. Together they have controlled Indian cricket for more than half a decade.

India’s first Test win in South Africa – 2006

After a severe drubbing by the by the South Africans in the ODI series towards the end of 2006 where the Indians lost 0-4 the Indians came back strongly in the Test series by winning the first Test in Johannesburg.

The Indians scored a mediocre 249 in the first innings with only Sourav Ganguly scoring a half century. The South Africans were blown away in their first innings for 84 runs with Sreesanth doing bulk of the damage claiming 5 wickets for 40 runs.

The Indians made 236 in the second innings thanks to 73 runs by VVS Laxman setting up a target of 402 for the home team. It was Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Kumble’s day to party when each came up with 3 wickets to their name and the South Africans were all out for 278 runs.

This saw the Indians register their first Test victory on South African soil. Even though the Indian team lost the series 1-2, the sole Test victory was for all to savour. One of the shining stars of the Indian team who was largely responsible for the victory was Sreesanth. A wily fast bowler, with the style and humour, he conquered several wickets and even more hearts with his spectacular performances.

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