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India's 5 STARS in 2016

Rajneesh Gupta presents the top 5 players who helped India perform superbly in Tests in 2016.

IMAGE: Captain Virat Kohli, right, confers with star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Photograph: BCCI

India ended 2016 as the No 1 ranked Test side in the ICC Test rankings after registering a 4-0 victory over England in the five match series which culminated with an innings and 75 runs win for the home side in Chennai last Tuesday, December 20.

The Test season for India began in the West Indies in July, after which Captain Virat Kohli’s men went on to play 12 Tests till December.

A 2-0 win in the Caribbean was followed by a 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand at home.

Team India led by their charismatic skipper avenged their 2012 defeat by thrashing England to extend their unbeaten streak to 18 Tests, a new landmark for Indian cricket.

Rajneesh Gupta presents the top 5 players who helped India perform superbly in Tests in 2016.

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: Virat Kohli acknowledges the crowd during the third Test between India and New Zealand at the Holkar stadium in Indore. Photograph: BCCI

The year belonged to Virat Kohli — as a player and as a captain, in every format.

Virat ended the year with 1,215 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 75.93, easily the best Indian batsman right through the year.

Before 2016, Virat had never scored a double hundred in first class cricket. He got three double hundreds in Tests in 2016 alone, becoming the first Indian to score three double hundreds in a year.

He also became the only Indian captain to score more than one double hundred.

In the series against England, he aggregated 655 runs at an average of 109.16 — the most for India in a series against England.

It is just not the amount of runs he made, but the way he accumulated them and the impact of his innings on the match that make his batting so special.

Often we have seen great batsmen getting bogged down with captaincy. With Virat, it’s other way around.

Captaincy seems to push him out of his limits. Though he is still on a learning curve as a captain, Virat has shown that he has in him all the ingredients of what makes a great captain.

The biggest challenge would be how this team performs in England, Australia and South Africa.

Ravichandran Ashwin

IMAGE: Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates a wicket. Photograph: BCCI

With 612 runs and 72 wickets, Ashwin had one of the most remarkable years by an Indian.

Excepting the last Test of the year on his home turf, Ashwin bamboozled the opposition batsmen with his crafty off-spin.

Ashwin had 8 5-wicket hauls and 3 10-wicket match hauls in the year — a new record for an Indian.

Amid all the talk about his bowling, his success with the bat gets overlooked.

With 612 runs, Ashwin is the 4th most successful Indian batsman in the year, behind only Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane.

Only Pujara (7) crossed 50 more often than Ashwin (6) in the year for India.

Twice, Ashwin scored a 50 and took a 5 wicket haul in the same Test.

In two back to back series Ashwin claimed more than 25 wickets.

At this stage of his career, Ashwin has taken more wickets than any other player in Test cricket.

Clearly, Ashwin will remember 2016 for the rest of his life.

Ravindra Jadeja

IMAGE: Ravindra Jadeja, left, celebrates with Virat Kohli after ensnaring New Zealand’s Luke Ronchi. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

From a player who could do a bit of batting, bowling and fielding, Jadeja has developed into a promising allrounder — a useful late-order batsman, a cunning left-arm spinner and a live wire in the outfield, three traits moulded into one character.

A perfect foil to Ashwin, Jadeja at times looked more dangerous than his off-spinning partner.

In the 9 Tests he played this year, Jadeja accounted for 43 wickets at an average of 24.56. Only Ashwin took more wickets for India in the year.

He also scored 375 runs at an average of 37.50, held 7 catches in the field and saved many runs with his excellent fielding.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates a century. Photograph: BCCI

Pujara was asked to improve upon his strike-rate in the West Indies as the team management felt that his style of batting — occupying the crease for a long time without doing much scoring — was not helping the team’s cause.

Pujara took the advice in the right spirit, worked on this aspect of his game and we saw a different Pujara in subsequent matches. One who would not let go a scoring opportunity while playing copy-book cricket.

He was the top scorer in the series against New Zealand, aggregating 373 at an average of 74.60.

In 5 out of the 6 innings against New Zealand, Pujara scored at least 40.

In the series against England, Pujara aggregated 401 runs at an average of 50.12.

It was his partnership with Murali Vijay that helped India earn a draw in the first Test against England in Rajkot.

It was Pujara again, who — together with Kohli — put India in a dominating position at Visakhapatnam, a stand that set the tone of the series.

In all, Pujara scored 836 runs in 11 Tests at an average of 55.73 in the year.

Mohammed Shami

IMAGE: Mohammed Shami celebrates taking New Zealander Mark Craig’s wicket in the first Test. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

There were many contestants for the fifth spot — Ajinkya Rahane, K L Rahul, Murali Vijay.

29 wickets in 10 Tests at an average of 26.86 may not be the kind of figures that would set the cricketing world on fire, but Shami’s importance to this team can’t be gauged by numbers.

Despite a large number of catches being dropped off his bowling, Shami bowled like a workhorse, taking the burden without ever complaining.

He was the ‘go to’ bowler for Kohli whenever the Ashwin-Jadeja duo found it tough to break a partnership.

Shami ensured that there was no respite for the opposition’s tailenders after all the hard work from the spin duo.

The Gros Islet Test against the West Indies and the Mohali Test against England are classic examples when Shami brought India back into the game and eventually won his country the Test.

Source: Rediff