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2009: Year of India's ascent to Test pinnacle

Last updated on: December 29, 2009 08:57 IST

Mixed fortunes for Team India

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The IPL gold-rush drew players in droves and Sachin Tendulkar completed two illustrious decades, but 2009 will be fondly remembered as the year of India's ascent to the pinnacle of Test cricket, a format that ironically languishes at the bottom of their priorities.

The 2007 World Twenty20 champions could not defend their title in England, came a cropper in the Champions Trophy - the second most elite One-Day tournament after the World Cup - and also allowed the opportunity to become the No 1 ODI team slip through their fingers with a home series defeat against an under-strength Australia.

It was rather an irony that Test cricket provided them their finest moments despite the Cricket Board's negligence of the format.

So engrossed in IPL proliferation, the BCCI has scheduled just two Tests in the next 11 months for the team, which is just not enough to protect the No 1 Test team's status.

Subsequently some sanity prevailed and it has apparently convinced South Africa to play two unscheduled Tests when the Proteas visit the country in February-March.


Image: ICC chief Haroon Lorgat presents the Test Championship mace to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virender Sehwag
Photographs: Reuters
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India win series in New Zealand after 40 years

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If the 2-0 win against Sri Lanka put them on top of the world, Dhoni and his team-mates can look back on the 1-0 away series win over New Zealand in April with considerable pride since it was India's first series win there in more than four decades.

India's rise as the No 1 Test team was not particularly well-received in certain quarters with the British press trying to find fault with the ICC ranking system, but the fan on the street was euphoric as Dhoni, inheritor of the proud legacy of his predecessors Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, shepherded the team to an unprecedented high.

In One-dayers, the team under Dhoni bearded the Lanka lion in its den, thumped the Kiwis in New Zealand and upended the West Indies in the Caribbeans for their fifth series win on the trot.

They won the blink-and-you-miss Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka as well but cut a sorry figure in the Champions Trophy in South Africa, managing just one win in the tournament.

The home series against a second-string Australian side presented with the gilt-edged opportunity to become the No 1 ODI team but the Men in Blue tamely surrendered and allowed Ricky Ponting return with the bragging rights.

Even more frustrating was their tame title defence in the World Twenty20 Championship in England where they beat minnows Bangladesh and Ireland before crashing out with three defeats on the trot.


Image: Harbhajan Singh with Compaq Cup trophy

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IPL tastes repeated success, this time in South Africa

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The IPL allure, however, showed no signs of waning.

The second edition of the cash-awash league seemed doomed after it coincided with the general elections and the government expressed its inability to provide adequate security.

Few believed Lalit Modi when he talked about shifting the show to South Africa and, to his credit, IPL-II turned out to be massive success even in its adopted home.

To go with it, last edition laggards Deccan Chargers, under Adam Gilchrist's inspiring leadership, provided the rags-to-riches story and lifted the crown after a fairytale campaign.

The far-reaching impact of the IPL was more than evident when England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff rejected a national contract to turn freelancer and troubled Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds soon followed in his footsteps.

Personally, IPL chief Modi had a roller-coaster year. If IPL's success in South Africa was a feather in his cap, twice losing the battle for power in the Rajasthan Cricket Association was a bitter pill to swallow.

The media was also agog with reports that BCCI secretary N Srinivasan was plotting to oust him from IPL but Modi eventually had board president Shashank Manohar saying that his job is safe till 2012.


Image: The Deccan Chargers after winning IPL-II

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Sachin Tendulkar, 20 not out

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Individually, the year 2009 also marked the 20th year of Sachin Tendulkar's international career, which was celebrated across the country.

In an era of injury-breakdowns and players' burnout, the batting great completed 20 years in international cricket which is an achievement in itself and tributes poured in from players - both current and former - as they hailed Tendulkar's talent and longevity and his ability to sustain the hunger for success.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar

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Big honours for Gambhir

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Among others, Gautam Gambhir had a particularly successful batsman and the left-hander evolved from an attacking opener to an all-season batsman.

Gambhir proved that he was not merely a mindless slogger and showed he can graft too, prompting mentor Virender Sehwag to call him the "Second Wall" of Indian cricket, Rahul Dravid being the first.

It hardly raised an eyebrow that Gambhir was named ICC Test Player of the Year for 2009, and is ranked the No 1 Test batsman in the ICC rankings.


Image: Gautam Gambhir with the ICC Player of the Year trophy

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Dhoni was named ODI Player of the Year

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Apart from his charismatic captaincy, Dhoni too had his moments of glory with the bat, being the No 1 ODI batsman in ICC rankings and winning the ICC ODI Player of the Year.

He was named captain of both the ICC Test and ODI Team of the Year.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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