19.01.2019 Author: C.NAMASIVAYAMThe social media is currently going berserk with a challenge titled '#10yearchallenge'. The recent obsession in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is posting a profile picture of 10 years ago along with the current picture followed by some slogans to suit the occasion.
In a way, it is a positive move to remind a person as to how well he has traveled in the last 10 years in spite of the challenges associated with one's life. The act also suggests that in the past 10 years how admirably a person has become wiser by experience rather than age.
As in life, in cricket too, there has been a lot of evolution in the last 10 years. In the last 10 years, things have changed a lot for good in cricket as a whole and more particularly in Indian cricket. Let us evaluate the #10yearchallenge in Indian cricket comparing 2009 with 2019 and appraise the transition that has taken place in Indian cricket and the cricketers in the last 10 years.
Before going into the exact evolution that has taken place in Indian cricket, it would be appropriate to revisit India's triumphs in those 10 years which led to the evolution.
Brief highlights of India's triumph in the last 10 years
The start of 2009 and the emergence of M.S. Dhoni as the undisputed leaderThe Indian team led by Mahinder Singh Dhoni was at its transitional phase at the beginning of 2009 after the retirement of stalwarts like Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble. With the retirement of these leaders, Dhoni emerged as the new leader of this team. Dhoni had the Midas touch as Captain as everything he touched turned into gold.
In his first 12 Test series as Test Captain, Dhoni had an unbeaten record of having won 9 series and drawn 3. Dhoni was the undisputed king in his first 3 years as Captain. It all culminated into a World Cup win for India after 28 years.
The amazing win in the World Cup 2011India's World Cup win in 2011 at home was the biggest triumph for India in the last 10 years. India was the deserving winner as they remained unbeaten in the entire tournament except a last over loss against South Africa. The World Cup win after 28 years has taken Indian cricket to a different level. The World Cup win was followed by the triumph in the Champions Trophy in 2013.
First Test series win in AustraliaUnder Virat Kohli, India made history by registering their first Test series win in Australia in 70 years.
King Kohli breaks all recordsIn the last 10 years, Kohli has broken all records in all formats of the game. He was the quickest to reach 10,000 ODI runs. He is now the World's No 1 batsman in all formats of the game.
ICC rankingsIn ICC Rankings, the current Indian team is ranked No 1 in Test cricket and No 2 in ODI and T20 cricket.
The role of Indian Premier League in the evolution of Indian cricketIn 2009, the IPL in its second year was at its infancy stage. But now IPL has become a big platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent and press their claims for a national call. IPL has played a huge role in unearthing fresh talent and nurturing senior players.
What IPL has done is that it has made the selection process transparent and talented players get their due recognition. IPL has given more financial security for all the young upcoming cricketers though at times it causes unexpected windfall for some relatively unknown players. Going forward, a proper counseling system should be in place for the younger players to handle success and stardom.
On the footsteps of IPL, state associations like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have come with their own form of a local league to identify talent at the grass root level.
The evolution of Indian cricket in the last 10 years
Increased number of overseas Test winsSince 2009, India has won a total of 18 away Test matches, 2 each in Australia, England, South Africa, and Bangladesh, one in New Zealand, 3 in West Indies and 6 in Sri Lanka. During this period, India has won Test series in all the above countries except in South Africa. Moreover, even in overseas losses, the margin of defeats was minimal. This is a remarkable achievement and a huge advancement in the journey of the Indian cricket team.
The emergence of Fast BowlersThe biggest evolution that has happened in Indian Cricket in the last 10 years is the emergence of an army of fast bowlers. India at present has Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammad Siraj in its ranks. Ishant, Shami, and Bumrah broke the 34 years old record by claiming a total of 131 wickets in 2018. More than the number of wickets, the trio has instigated the fear of God in the minds of the opposition batsmen. For once, the Indian fans are delighted to witness the opposition batsmen face the music.
Fitness levels and fielding standardsThe advent of T20I has ensured that the players are supremely fit at all times and on their toes while on the field. In today's cricket, there is no place for an average fielder, however good he is as a batsman or as a bowler. The players are put to a lot of fitness and fielding drills day in and day out. The Yo- yo test is now mandatory to every Indian player to test his stamina and endurance level.
The surfacing of fearless Indian BatsmenThe IPL experience has set young Indian batsmen like Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal the confidence to be fearless in their batting approach. They are not overawed by the reputation of the bowlers as they go for their shots from the beginning of the innings.
The role of wrist-spinners in white ball cricketFor so long, wrist-spinners have been considered as a luxury in white ball cricket. But the simultaneous influx of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in Indian Cricket has made wrist-spin an attacking option in the middle overs. The wrist-spin twins have served India exceptionally well in the last two years.
Different players for different occasionsUnlike the team of 2009, the Indian team of 2019 is not over dependent on one or two players. They have different players to rise to different occasions and everyone is a team player contributing to the common objective. The fear of failure is no more present.
The reliance on technologyAt the beginning of 2009, the Indians were too reluctant to use technology to arrive at decisions on the cricket field. However, the change in leadership has resulted in the change in approach and now India has learned to embrace technology. This progression has done more good for Indian cricket.
New terminologies like umpire's call, hotspot, Snickometer, Hawkeye, ultra edge, and soft signal have gained paramount relevance in today's Indian cricket as compared to 10 years ago.
The presence of bits-and-pieces cricketers in the Indian Test teamIn 2009, the Indian Test team consisted of specialists. However, over a period of time, bits-and-pieces players who were considered more suitable for white ball cricket have found themselves in the Test playing XI. Players like Hardik Pandya and Stuart Binny have found their way into the Test team.
On overseas conditions, even someone like a Jadeja or an Ashwin is expected to play the dual role to maintain the balance of the team. The irony is that in the current team the best wicket-keeper batsman is in the one-day XI while the best batsman wicket-keeper is in Test XI.
Besides, in recent times, the Indian team looks more like a Sri Lankan team with 2 or 3 wicket-keepers in the playing XI in white ball cricket.
The adaptability to toss outcomeThe Indian teams of 2009 were more over-reliant on the coin falling in their favor in all formats of the game, both at home and away. However, the team of 2019 is different. It is true that this team, like any other team in the world, is over-dependent on toss in away Test matches. Excepting that, they are not at all so desperate to win the toss in Test matches at home and white ball cricket anywhere in the world. This team is equally capable of setting a target and as well as chasing one on all conditions. This is one of the biggest evolution of Indian cricket in the last 10 years.
Bench strength and like-for-like playersThe 2009 team had some senior players who were indispensable and the team depended a lot on their performances. In the current team, apart from the cream of the main players, there is an adequate like-for-like replacement for the rest of the players. The IPL has helped immensely in improving the bench strength of the fringe players. There is plenty of cover for injury and fatigue in the current team.
Test matches involving India have become more result orientedWith the entry of more number of non-specialists, the hard-earned draw in a Test match in 2019 has become a rarity. In the present Indian team, there are about 5 to 6 players who play in all 3 formats of the game. Their natural attacking instinct carried forward from white ball cricket lead to their impatience and downfall in Test matches. On home turf, the oppositions are knocked over inside 3 days while on away tours India never plays for a draw. Test Cricket involving India has now become more exciting.
The recognition for cricketers in India - Bharat Ratna for Mr. Sachin TendulkarSachin Tendulkar became the first sportsperson in India who has been conferred the country's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. It is a huge recognition not only for the man himself but also for the entire sports fraternity in the country. It is a double honor for cricket since a cricketer became the first sportsperson in India to receive this honor.
The role of professional support staffIn 2009, the Indian team was accompanied by a very few support staff. But now the Indian team has a Head Coach, Assistant coach, the bowling coach, and a fielding coach. Apart from that, they have a video analyst, trainer, and physio. The appointment of so many professionals to assist the Indian team in 2009 was unheard of.
The color of money is now quite evident in the gameThe presence of the commercial aspect in the game is now quite evident in India compared to 2009. The players benefit by the innumerable number of sponsor contracts which sometimes can be a menace. Even parents of 2019 wish their wards to become a good T20 player and earn an IPL contract rather than to become a high-quality player. The huge amount of earning associated with the game even in the initial stages of a player's career has narrowed down the ambitions of young aspiring cricketers.
Improvement in Indian Domestic CricketAs vouched by Kholi and Bumrah, the Indian domestic cricket standards are one of the best in the world. In the 2018-19 season, 9 more new teams were added to the existing 28 teams. This has widened the scope for representation.
Faster graduation of Indian players from domestic level to International levelThe present standards in domestic cricket coupled with the IPL exposure helps players of 2019 to graduate to the international level smoothly as compared to the situation in 2009. A player like a Jasprit Bumrah, after a few seasons of IPL and Ranji Trophy, has suddenly grown into one of the best bowlers in the world in all formats of the game. The acceleration is even faster from the under 19 level to the senior level.
The role of social mediaThe presence of social media has narrowed down the gap between the players and the public. Now opinions are interchanged in a common platform adding up to the transparency levels. But the players are at times over exposed to social media.
To sum up, Indian cricket has evolved beyond recognition in the last 10 years. While most of these changes are positive in nature, very few have an adverse effect on the game and the players. One can safely say that the Indian Cricket has prevailed upon the #10yearchallenge with rousing success. As in life, in cricket too, the only constant is change, change for the better.