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Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India

A controversial year for Indian cricket

N. Srinivasan

f you look back at the history of Indian cricket, there have been more dismal years than great ones. That can't, however, deflect attention from the fact that 2014 was a particularly abysmal year, both on and off the field. When cricket made it to the front pages, it was usually in connection with the Mudgal Committee Report into spot fixing in the Indian Premier League, and the Supreme Court judges' views on N Srinivasan and conflict of interest.

The court has yet to give its judgment on the matter, and the state of limbo hasn't been helpful for anyone. Rumours abound that the report has been less than complimentary about MS Dhoni, who captains the national team, and the board wasn't able to hold its AGM in 2014 because the court insisted that those the report considered culpable shouldn't be involved with the elections in any way.

On the field, Dhoni's reputation took a further battering in the Test arena. If, as seems likely, India lose the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, it will be their seventh defeat in ten matches this year. The lone victory, at Lord's in July, was followed by three consecutive defeats, each more crushing than the other.

The tone had been set in New Zealand, where India lost in Auckland and drew in Wellington. In the first Test, they had fought back from being 301 in arrears on first innings to being 222 for 2 in pursuit of 407 for victory. Then, the almost pre-ordained collapse, with several batsmen squandering starts. At Wellington, it was worse, as India took a lead of 246 on first innings and then reduced New Zealand to 94 for 5 in the second. That was the cue for Brendon McCullum to score a triple-century. BJ Watling and James Neesham helped themselves to hundreds, and the final day saw India needing to bat out nearly two sessions to salvage the draw.

In England, the euphoria of Lord's was quickly erased by the dismay over the verdict in the Ravindra Jadeja-James Anderson case. That Anderson had abused Jadeja as they walked off the field at Trent Bridge was not in dispute. But with no video evidence available, India couldn't prove that there had been physical contact in the corridor leading to the dressing room. Despite millions being spent on lawyers and a video conference, the evidence given by the two teams was so vastly different that the judicial commissioner hearing the case had no option but to find Anderson not guilty.

At that stage, the series was poised at 1-1. In the following two Tests, at Old Trafford and the Oval, India barely managed to occupy the crease for a day across the two innings. The middle-order meltdown was pitiful – Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli managed one half-century between them in 10 innings – and the bowling ran out of puff after Ishant Sharma's heroics on the final afternoon at Lord's.

Things were a little better in ODIs, though the year started with a 4-0 thumping in New Zealand, one of the co-hosts for the upcoming World Cup. There was no joy in the Asia Cup either, with Shahid Afridi's final-over sixes ensuring that India would miss the final. Victory over an England side that seldom gives the impression of taking the format seriously, and a West Indies team that was engaged in a pay dispute with their board, glossed over the shortcomings, especially on the bowling front.

There had been serene progress to the final of the World Twenty20, with thumping wins over Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. But in the final, Kohli played a lone hand even as those around him seemed mired in treacle. Sri Lanka stuttered, before Kumar Sangakkara and Thisara Perera saw it home. As in 2012, India had lost just one game, but the mistakes came at the costliest times.

That match also marked what was perhaps Yuvraj Singh's last appearance for India, a lacklustre 21-ball 11. By year's end, he and Gautam Gambhir – who led the Kolkata Knight Riders to another IPL title – had been overlooked for central contracts, joining Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan on the discards' heap. The heroes of 2011 were now yesterday's men. Those that replaced them had yet to learn how to win, especially in white clothes.

Once, Dhoni was Captain Cool, destined to be feted as India's greatest leader. The Test debacles of the past three years have ruined that legacy a fair bit. The clamour for change is growing, especially after Kohli led fearlessly in Adelaide, and unless Dhoni can conjure up a remarkable title defence at the World Cup, a new hand could be on the tiller by the start of the next home season.

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