While Neeraj Chopra’s individual Olympic gold in 2020 Olympics held in 2021 at Tokyo has to go down as the greatest sporting moment for India during 2021 ( First Olympic Gold for India after 2008 ) , Indian cricket has also touched some great heights during 2021 as well as some dissappointing lows . As the year 2021 draws to a close we look back at 3 highs & 3 lows Indian cricket during the year 2021 .
The HIGHS :
India men winning the epic Australia test series at Gabba: This has to be Indian cricket finest moment in 2021 & one of the greatest of all eras. After the debacle of 36 allout at Adelaide and losing the first test with a captain going back home on paternal leave , India rallied magnificently under Ajinkya Rahane at MCG to square the series at the end of 2020 . In January 2021 , with series 1-1 , India orchestrated a great escape at Sydney with 2 injured cricketers Hanuma Vihari & Ravichandran Ashwin as they battled for 3 hours to deny Australia a win . With series still 1-1 , India , ravaged by injuries got down to play the final test at Australia’s fortress Gabba in Brisbane with several substitutes to replace injured seniors . After 4 gruelling days of test cricket India needed 328 to win on the final day and brilliant efforts from Gill (91) , Pujara (75) and finally Rishabh Pant (89*) took India to an epic win in the final overs with 7 wickets down. India won the series by 2-1 in sensational fashion after being on the ropes with an injury ravaged team . Surely India’s best overseas win outside World cup 1983.
After winning the Australia series for the Border Gavaskar Trophy ,India beat England 3-1 in the home test series to qualify for the final of WTC championship. Riding on Joe Root’s brilliant 218, England won the 1st Test at Chennai by 227 runs to take 1-0 lead in the series but India came back with vengeance in the next 3 tests , wiining by 317 runs, 10 wickets & innings & 25 runs to take the series 3-1 riding on brilliant spin bowling by Ashwin (32 wickets ) & debutant Axar Patel (27 wickrts in 3 tests). India further won the T20I series 3-2 & the ODI series 2-1.
India’s men’s Test wins in England, leading series 2-1 : India after winning the test series in Australia and then beating England in all formats at home had a big tour of England in 2021 for the new cycle of World test Championships (2021-23) . After drawing the first test , India won in sensational fashion at Lords on the 5th day after being on the backfoot on the same morning . Sensational hitting by Shami & Bumrah helped India to set a challenging target for England of 272 runs in final two sessions . What followed was brilliant spells of fast bowling by the Indian fast bowlers with Siraj (4/32) & Jasprit Bumrah (3/33) leading the way to destroy England for 120 and India won by 151 runs with few overs left for England to survive .
India did lose the 3rd test badly but came back with a vengeance in the 4th test at the Oval. After England took a 99 run lead on the 1st innings , Rohit Sharma’s magnificent 1st test 100 overseas ( he scored 127) in the second innings helped India to make s comeback in the test . With 368 to win , England’s fragile batting imploded again as they were bowled out for 210 with the Indian fast bowlers choking them again for a 2-1 series lead.
However the 5th test was postponed finally to July 2022 due to covid concerns and hence the series is yet to be completed with India leading 2-1 and on the cusp of another series win in England.
And as the year drew to a close India fashioned a superbly crafted test win over South Africa at their fortress Centurion by 113 runs on 30th December 2021 and are now favourites to win a Test series for the first time on South African soil .
Indian women snapping Australia’s 26 match ODI winning streak & drawing 2 tests .
2021 was a fantastic year for women’s cricket in India. Firstly they drew the one off test vs England after defeat looked certain on the last day . Sneh Rana(80*) and Taniya Bhatia (44*) snatched a creditable draw from England’s grasp while Shafali Verma with scores of 96 & 63 on debut was the player of the match .
Then in the first ever day night test for India against Australia at Gold coast, Smriti Mandhana’s dazzling 127 helped India to dominate the Aussie girls in their backyard ,though finally Australia managed to save the test match .
In the ODIs after losing the 2nd match in a close contest , India helped by Yastika Bhatia’s dazzling 64 and Jhulan Goswami’s final last overs batting finally snapped Australian women’s 26 match winning streak in ODIs .
In women’s Big Bash 2021 , India’s Harmanpreet Kaur won the player of the tournament playing for Melbourne Renegades . The 32 year old explosive right-hander has top-scored for Melbourne Renegades with 406 runs in 11 innings with 58 average while striking at 130.96 and also been the leading wicket-taker for the Renegades with 15 wickets at an economy of 7.46. As many as 8 Indian women players participated in the WBBL 2021.
THE LOWS :
India men losing the WTC final to New Zealand
Probably the most crushing low for India in 2021 was losing the final of World Test Championships vs New Zealand at Southampton . India scored 217 and New Zealand replied with 249 in the first innings . Much time was lost due to rains during the test and hence the natch went into the reserve day . However it proved to be a shocking one for India as they collapsed from 64/2 overnight to 170 allout and the Kiwis completed a convincing 8 wicket win chasing down 139 in a tense final 3 sessions.
Indian men ejected out in group stages of T20I World cup .
Virat Kohli’s final event as a T20I captain proved to be extremely dissappointing for India . In the T20I world cup campaign , India were blown away by Pakistan by 10 wickets in the first match . India not only lost the match but also lost to Pakistan for the first time in a world cup match . As if that was not enough, India got hammered by their nemesis New Zealand in the 2nd match and though they won their last 3 games against lesser teams their fate was sealed after the first two losses against heavyweight teams . Thus India crashed out of T20I world cup from group stage
Captaincy issue , Virat Kohli – BCCI head controversy :
As if the T20I World cup loss was not enough , Indian cricket was subject to off field controversy when Virat Kohli in a press conference appear to contradict BCCI head & former captain Sourav Ganguly’s remarks that he was told not to give up T20I captaincy . Virat said that no one spoke to him about not leaving the T20I captancy and his resignation was accepted happily by the selectors . He also further stated that he was told about his removal from ODI captaincy only during the selectors meeting for South Africa test team selection and not before as was claimed by Ganguly .
This controversy is still in the air but BCCI has kept quiet on it as the board wants the team to focus on the South African tour .
One hopes that 2022 will continue to bring good moments in Indian cricket and Indian sports .