If you had asked the Indian side a year ago to list their goals for 2022, they’d have probably said the following: win away in South Africa, seal the series win in England by avoiding a defeat in the one-off Test in Edgbaston, win the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup and maintain their dominance in ODIs.
Every single target was realistic. They began 2022 leading an Anrich Nortje-less South Africa 1-0, and were heavy favorites to script a historic series win. Some even pipped them to emphatically whitewash the Saffars.
Holding on to the lead in England was seen as the tougher of two tasks, but then again, it wasn’t considered unrealistic as India only needed a draw to walk away as victors.
And the expectations in white-ball cricket were obvious given the side’s utterly ridiculous strength, and strength in depth.
Well, a year on, here we are. India are about to exit 2022 having flabbergastingly achieved NONE of the targets: series loss in South Africa, thumping in the one-off Test at Edgbaston, humiliating semi-final exit in the T20 World Cup and a W/L ratio of 1.750 in ODIs, their worst in a calendar year in seven years in which they’ve played 20 or more ODIs.
Today we look back on a year that, for team India, was tumultuous to say the least, recapping all the things that unfolded across a forgettable 12-month period.
Results: Series loss to South Africa, Seven wicket-defeat in fifth England Test, 2-0 series win each against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (P7 W4 L3)
Major Talking Points
Top 4 continues to disappoint
Little signs of encouragement shown across the England series and the Centurion Test in South Africa turned out to be a false dawn as India’s Top 4, overall, disappointed and let the side down. Across 13 innings, India’s Top 4 batters averaged just 29.1 in Tests in 2022, the third-worst behind Bangladesh and South Africa.
Pujara was the only Indian Top-4 batter to average over 40 and he himself beefed up his numbers in the team’s penultimate Test of the year; his failure to cash in and post big scores significantly played a part in the side’s downfall in South Africa.
Rahul failed to consolidate on the good work he did towards the second half of 2021, while Rohit featured in just two Tests overall (we’ll get to this in detail). Kohli’s rotten run in Tests continued while Shubman Gill didn’t have the breakthrough year that many predicted.
In one significant development, the team management FINALLY decided that Ajinkya Rahane no longer warranted a place in the first squad. He was one of two batting casualties in the year, the other being Mayank Agarwal. The first few months of 2023 will tell us if Hanuma Vihari will be added to the list.
The rise of Iyer, the rise and rise of Pant
India might have been let down by their Top 4, but the lower middle-order stood up when it mattered — nearly every single time.
Pant grew from strength to strength and cemented himself as the team’s best and most important batter: he ended 2022 with 680 runs at an average of 61.82 and a SR of 90.9. He dazzled against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but the undisputed highlight of his year was the counter-punching 146 at Edgbaston, which came when the side was 98/5.
Complementing Pant throughout the year was Shreyas Iyer, who after debuting in late 2021, came into his own in Test cricket in 2022. He made series-defining contributions against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and finished the year with an average of 60.29. The 28-year old has cemented himself as a lock in sub-continent conditions.
Second innings woes with the ball
India suffered three gut-wrenching Test defeats in 2022 and in all three games, they had the opponent where they wanted: under pressure, having to chase a substantial score in the fourth innings.
Unimaginably enough, they got mauled in the fourth innings not once, not twice, but thrice.
While South Africa chased down 243 and 212 respectively across the second and third Tests losing just three wickets in each game, to complete a comeback and level the series, England knocked off 378 with seven wickets to spare.
But it was not just in the games they lost that India struggled bowling last. Bangladesh batted 113.2 overs and scored 324 runs batting last in Chattogram, while in Mirpur, lack of ruthlessness with the ball in the third innings nearly cost them the game. In fact, in the fourth innings this year, India conceded as many as four individual tons — Dimuth Karunaratne, Zakir Hasan, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
India’s average of 47.1 with the ball in the fourth innings in 2022 goes down as the second-worst among all sides, behind New Zealand’s 61.1.
Other talking points
2022 saw India’s incumbent Test skipper Rohit Sharma miss 71.42% (5/7) of the country’s Tests due to various reasons. Given his recent injury history and given he’s in the wrong side of his 30s, questions are already being raised about his future as captain.
However, though the management are clear about Rahul being Rohit’s successor, there are still doubts over the former’s credentials — both as batter and captain.
The rise of Iyer, evolution of Pant, return of Kuldeep and the fact that the team is still in contention to make the WTC final
Marks out of 10
Results: Unbeaten in bilaterals and had a W/L ratio of 2.80 — best among all sides — but lost in the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup and got humbled by England in the semi-final of the T20WC
Major Talking Points
Last month, we covered India’s journey from one T20WC to another in detail in our comprehensive piece about the Dravid era, titled ‘India under Dravid: unlucky, but also undone by hasty decision-making’. You can read the piece here.
To avoid redundancy, we’ll keep our T20I summary crisp and to the point.
India the bilateral side and India the T20WC side: poles apart
More than that India failed to break their ICC Trophy drought, what angered and baffled many was the fact that they promised one thing and delivered another. Head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma, for a full year leading into the World Cup, spoke about playing ‘fearless’ cricket but come the big occasion, the Men in Blue were consumed by conservatism.
All through the World Cup, everyone barring Suryakumar Yadav played within themselves, and the conservative approach ultimately cost the side in the semi-final against England.
At the T20WC, the side that dominated the bilaterals all year long was nowhere to be found.
SKY moves up levels to become the best T20 batter in the worldEven prior to the start of the calendar year, Suryakumar Yadav was one of the best T20 batters in the world, but 2022 saw SKY turn into the best T20 batter in world cricket. A ludicrous year saw him amass 1164 runs at an average of 46.56 and SR of 187.43. He turned up game after game, single-handedly won a plethora of matches for the country and was, by some distance, India’s best player in the World Cup.
Management in a ‘forever’ state of confusion
Though India made the semi-finals of the T20WC, they pretty much did not know what their best XI was. Partly due to injuries but largely due to just how confused the management were.
The management zeroed-in on Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel as the lead spinner and death bowler respectively in the aftermath of the 2021 T20 World Cup, but the pair somehow ended up playing a grand total of zero games between them at the T20WC in Australia.
They kept alternating between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik, and drafted-in Mohammed Shami in the eleventh hour after not having him as part of the plans in the one year in lead-up to the T20WC.
When it came to selections, they were in a forever state of confusion and this worsened things.
Amidst the disappointment, there were a couple of silver linings for India: the return of Hardik Pandya and the emergence of Arshdeep Singh. While Hardik, after spending an extended period outside the T20I set-up, came back with a bang, Arshdeep bowled like a seasoned veteran despite being a rookie.
Kohli’s showing in the T20WC was a silver lining too, but there’s a high chance that the 34-year-old might have played his last T20WC match.
Other talking points
The future of both Rahul and Rohit Sharma — as starters in the first XI — is uncertain. For the second World Cup running the pair under-performed, failing to turn up under pressure.
Given Rohit’s dwindling returns in the shortest format, there are suggestions that he could be displaced as the T20I skipper by Hardik Pandya. His position as captain is not secure.
66 games on, the jury is still out on Rishabh Pant the T20I player. 2022 was yet another disappointing year for the southpaw, who averaged 21.41 and did not make the fullest use of the opportunities he was given.
Truth be told, 2022 was a year in which India were plagued by injuries. Especially in T20 cricket. They had to play the World Cup without two of their key players, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja. Constant injuries all through the year also affected the team’s preparation.
Undeniably injuries hampered the side, but, at the same time, the team under-performed at the T20WC in Australia.
Marks out of 10
One Day Internationals
Results: Whitewashed away in South Africa, beaten away in New Zealand and Bangladesh; Beat England, West Indies and Zimbabwe away and won against South Africa at home
First things first, we’ll have to acknowledge that any dissection will not be entirely fair, given India did not prioritize ODI cricket in 2022. A combination of rest, rotation, injuries and prioritizing T20s meant that the Men in Blue never really fielded their strongest possible XI in 50-over cricket.
That being said, it was still a disappointing year in the 50-over format for team India; they suffered as many as three humiliating series losses.
Without making a mountain out of a molehill — while acknowledging that the results could have been better — let us just look at the relevant talking points.
Shikhar Dhawan’s position as a starter is becoming untenable
In 22 matches across 2022 Dhawan averaged 34.40 — his worst ever in any calendar year (min 5 matches) — but more concerningly, he struck at just 74.21. Dhawan ended 2022 amassing 146 runs across his last 9 innings at an average of 16.22, his last five scores reading 3, 8, 7, 28, 3.
With age not on his side — Dhawan turned 37 earlier this month — there are concerns that he might truly be past his best, and the decline might be irreparable. Certainly, a year ahead of the World Cup, the veteran’s position as a first-team player is starting to become untenable, particularly with Shubman Gill firing in 50-over cricket.
India need to figure out who their lead attacking spinner is — and back the individual
The ODI World Cup is still a year away, but India need to ensure that they don’t commit the same mistake they did in the T20WC, where they effectively had no strike bowlers in the spin department. As things stand, there is no clarity over who the team’s lead attacking spinner is — Chahal, despite being the incumbent, is far from a lock — but the management will have to zero-in on the same sooner rather than later.
Whether it be Chahal, Kuldeep or Bishnoi, the management will then have to back the individual even through a rough patch. Identifying and backing a wrist-spinner is key as all evidence suggests that playing two finger spinners is not a good idea, even though it may come with the added benefit of batting depth.
Shreyas Iyer makes himself indispensable
‘Doubt me as much as you want, I’ll prove you wrong by scoring as much as I want’ was Shreyas Iyer’s mantra in 2022 when it came to ODI cricket. He scored, scored, scored, scored, scored and well, never stopped scoring.
If 2020/21 witnessed Iyer put himself in the conversation in ODI cricket, 2022 saw him pretty much make himself indispensable: he finished the year with 724 runs at an average of 55.69 and strike rate of 91.52. No one in India came close to making the kind of impact Iyer did. He completed 2022 with seven 50+ scores in his last 12 ODI innings.
Fitting Rahul, Iyer and Pant in the same XI will be an impossible ask, but Iyer, in 2022, did everything in his power to ensure that he won’t be the sacrificial goat.
2022 witnessed Shubman Gill find his feet at the ODI level as he amassed 638 runs in 12 games at an astonishing average of 70.88 and a SR of 102.57. Like Iyer, Gill did everything in his power to become a starter. Reputation and experience, as things stand, are the only two factors keeping Dhawan ahead of Gill in the pecking order.
Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and Washington Sundar all had encouraging showings in 2022.
Unavailability of full-strength XI owing to rest/rotation and injuries
Marks out of 10