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Champions Trophy victory, cricket's high point (2013 in Retrospect)

New Delhi, Dec 26 : It was a frustrating year for Indian cricket as charges of betting and spot-fixing and the retirement of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar shook the faith of the fans who worshipped the game.


Amid the gloom, there was one on-field sparkle when India won the Champions Trophy in England, even if the cynics discount the 4-0 whitewash of Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at home.

The retirement of Tendulkar left millions of his diehard fans in distress. However, they were in for a big cheer within hours of playing his last international match when he was conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award.

By the end of the year, the India were beaten in the ODI series in South Africa but faith in the young side was reposed after they put on a stunning performance in the first match of the two-Test series. In the first Test in Johannesburg, India came close and fell three wickets short of what would have been their third Test win in South Africa.

The year started with a 1-2 loss in a hurriedly arranged One-Day International series against arch-rivals Pakistan when England went home for a Christmas break between the Test and ODIs against India.

The two neighbours played a bilateral series after five years and one big positive for India from the series was the rise of a pacer Mohammad Shami, who made an impressive debut to bowl India to victory in the last match.

After losing the Test series 1-2 to England, India hit back to win the five-match ODI series 3-2: losing the first match narrowly by nine runs, they hit back to take the next three matches before being beaten in the last game by seven wickets.

The Australians were soon here to play a four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and the Indians had a point to prove after suffering a whitewash Down Under a year ago. India returned the compliment at home, decimating the Australians by winning all the Tests. There were quite a few outstanding performances, but the player who took the honours was Shikhar Dhawan, who scored the fastest hundred by a batsman on Test debut.

Now it was time for the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). It was won by Mumbai Indians, beating Chennai Super Kings. The celebration was marred by a midnight raid by the Delhi Police to nab three Rajasthan Royals cricketer, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan from Mumbai on charges of spot-fixing. The ghost of match-fixing came back to haunt Indian cricket after 12 years.

A countrywide raid followed to clamp down on betting in cricket, but the arrest of Chennai Super Kings team principal Gurunath Meiyappan and actor Vindoo Dara Singh on charges of betting in IPL shook the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

BCCI president Narayanaswami Srinivasan was quick to distance himself from his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, calling him only a "cricket enthusiast."

A defiant Srinivasan refused to step down, but stepped aside, giving the interim charges to former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya. A two-member BCCI probe panel, comprising retired judges of Tamil Nadu High Court, gave a clean chit to Gurunath and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra even before the police could complete its investigations.

The Mumbai High Court dealt a severe blow to the BCCI by holding the two-member panel illegal and finally it was left to the Supreme Court to form a three-member panel, headed by retired judge Mukul Mudgal, to go into the messy affair.

The BCCI on its part showed remarkable alacrity in banning the tainted cricketers for life and slapped a one-year-ban on Rajasthan Royals fast bowler Siddharth Trivedi -- despite turning a prosecution witness -- for not reporting to the board when he was approached by a bookie.

The scandal had no effect on the performance of the team as they went on to win the Champions Trophy outright for the first time. The final against England was reduced to a Twenty20 affair and India clinched the thriller. Dhawan was the player of the series and Ravindra Jadeja the highest wicket-taker (12).

From London, the Indian team flew to the Caribbean for a tri-nation series, Sri Lanka being the third team. India won it comfortably, but an onfield spat between Suresh Raina and Jadeja was a jarring note and the duo was reprimanded by the board.

The Australians, who suffered a white-wash in the Tests earlier in the year, returned back for a seven-match ODI series. It was a keenly contested series with India winning 3-2 and the star of the show was Rohit Sharma, who struck a double century in the final ODI in Bangalore and entered the all-India club od double century-makers in the ODIs comprising Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.

Just when India were getting ready for a tour of South Africa came Tendulkar's retirement announcement and the BCCI quickly arranged a short two-Test series to enable the master batsman to end his career at home playing the last Test in Mumbai. His retirement overshadowed India winning both the Tests within three days and then the three-match ODI series.

--IANS (Posted on 26-12-2013)

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