2020 was a tough year for everyone owing to the deadly spread of Coronavirus. Cricketing activity too was suspended in March, and only resumed in the second half of the year. For India, it was a mixed bag. While they won the T20Is in New Zealand, they were blanked in the ODIs and Tests. In Australia again, they went down in the one-dayers before coming back strongly in the T20Is. The year ended on a high for India, with the special win in the Melbourne Test to square the series 1-1. With 2021 kicking in, there are many more challenges in store for Team India. Here’s a rundown.
1. Last two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy
The first aim of India in 2021 will, of course, be to try and clinch the Test series against Australia Down Under. With the four-match series tied 1-1, India have everything to play for in the remaining two Test matches at Sydney and Brisbane. Even in Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami’s absence, India did exceedingly well to clinch the Boxing Day Test. Ajinkya Rahane led from the front, and there will be high hopes from him for the remaining two games as well. Debutants Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj impressed at MCG, so India will go into the New Year Test high on confidence, joined by Rohit Sharma. It will be a challenge for Rahane and co to maintain the momentum as the Aussies will come hard at them.
2. Asia Cup
Having been postponed due to COVID-19 in 2020, Sri Lanka will host the Asia Cup in June 2021. The marquee clash here will obviously be India vs Pakistan. And, even though Pakistan are not the same team they once used to be international cricket, the pressure of an Indo-Pak clash is always omnipresent. Also, India will go into the tournaments as favourites. They are the defending champions and are also the most successful team in the Asia Cup. In that sense, they have a reputation to defend.
3. India tour of England
In what will be one of the biggest challenges for India in 2021, they will tour England for five Tests in August-September. Indian teams have struggled in England over the last decade. Since winning the 2007 series under Rahul Dravid’s shrewd leadership, they have struggled during subsequent visits. In 2011, they were blanked 4-0, India 2014, they did only slightly better, conceding the series 1-3 and, during their last visit in 2018, despite competing, they still went down 1-4. Big names of Indian cricket like Kohli, Rahane, Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin must lift their game in England for India to make a mark.
4. ICC T20 World Cup
The 2021 T20 World Cup will be held in India in October-November, with the 2020 edition in Australia falling prey to the COVID-19 pandemic. India will be desperate to win the trophy as question marks have been raised over their ‘champion team’ status, having not won a single ICC trophy since the 2013 Champions Trophy. They were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 50-over World Cup in 2015 and 2019, failed to lift the T20 World Cup in 2014 and 2016, despite coming very close. India also made the Champions Trophy final in 2017, where they were embarrassed by Pakistan. Asking India to win an ICC trophy to prove their mettle is definitely not unfair.
5. India tour of South Africa
Another massive tour for India, at the very end of the year, in December. Although they have won a few Test matches in South Africa, India have never really come close to winning a series. They drew the series 1-1 under MS Dhoni’s leadership in 2010-11 before going on to lose the 2014 series 0-1. There were high hopes from the Indian team when they arrived in South Africa in 2017-18, led by a confident Virat Kohli. However, they played poor cricket in the first two Tests to concede the series before notching up a consolation win at Johannesburg. Like winning ICC trophies in limited-overs, India must start winning Test series’ in SENA countries as well. That’s the only way to gain universal acclaim as a great side.