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MS Dhoni's own crown of a weary captain is under the scanner as Indian cricket turns into the new year.
MS Dhoni's own crown of a weary captain is under the scanner as Indian cricket turns into the new year.

Lot of questions for Indian cricket to address in 2013

After the highs in the first half of 2011, there have been a succession of lows. Things are likely to get worse before they improve.

When Virat Kohli slipped and fell and appeared to do serious damage to his knee while bowling against Pakistan in the only home one-day international of 2012, it pretty much summed up Indian cricket's calendar year.

After the highs in the first half of 2011, there have been a succession of lows and it was almost inevitable that a year that has seen so much tumultuous change would end with another chastening defeat.

The year that began with a crushing innings defeat in Sydney closed with Pakistan sauntering to a six-wicket victory in Chennai. India, No 1 in the Test rankings and World Cup winners in the 50-overs version 18 months ago, are now mid-table in each form of the game. Things are likely to get worse before they improve.

The Test side has seen the most upheaval, with just three wins from nine Tests. They lost thrice to Australia early in the New Year and then lost a home series to England for the first time in a generation.

A home series win against New Zealand and a solitary success against England were nowhere near enough to paper over yawning cracks. The biggest fault lines are in the batting, where Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have moved on, and Sachin Tendulkar appears to be on the verge of doing so.

A once-prolific opening partnership is no longer as effective, and the musical-chairs game that is the No 6 spot shows no sign of ending.

Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara represent the new generation, but as the England series showed, both are still works in progress. With the majority of India's upcoming Test assignments being overseas, the batting coach or consultant will have his work cut out.

The bowling, so pedestrian in England in the summer of 2011, did not improve at all in 2012. Zaheer Khan, once the side's bowling talisman, was dropped after three Tests against England, although the lack of threatening options may mean that he returns to play Australia after some fine spells in the Ranji Trophy.

Ravichandran Ashwin, who struggled as the front-line spinner in Australia, was just as ineffective against England.

By the end of the year, Pragyan Ojha, who did not get a game in Australia, had established himself as India's most viable wicket-taking option.

The emergence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the series against Pakistan has given India some cheer, but there have been so many false dawns when it comes to young pace bowlers that no one is in a hurry to anoint him as the next great hope.

Umesh Yadav's back injury will keep him out for at least a month, and it remains to be seen who will join Ojha in the attack that takes on Australia in four Tests in February and March.

The one-day side won nine games and lost seven, figures that are misleading because they did not make it to the final of either the Asia Cup or the tri-nation series in Australia.

And though we did not know it at the time, the Asia Cup - India were eliminated despite beating Sri Lanka and Pakistan - turned out to be Sachin Tendulkar's last bow in India's blue kit.

The Twenty20 team finished with an 8-6 record that included four wins and a solitary loss at the World T20 in Sri Lanka. Again though, the one defeat (against Australia) was so heavy that it prevented progress to the semi-finals.

The Tendulkar question - when will he bid adieu to Tests as well - hangs heavy over the team as we head into 2013, as do doubts over MS Dhoni's ability to lead in all three forms of the game.

Kohli is likely to take over in at least one format sooner rather than later, as India finally say goodbye to the golden generation and look ahead to an uncertain future.

sports@thenational.ae

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