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2017: Will on-field cricket action finally overshadow courtroom saga this year?

India Today logo India Today 03-01-2017

Ever since the spot-fixing and betting scandal in the Indian Premier League rocked the cricketing world in 2013, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been embroiled in controversies off the field which have hampered the image of Indian cricket. But now with the courtroom drama finally seemingly over, the focus can once again shift to the action on the field.

It all started when the now-defunct Rajasthan Royals players S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ajeet Chandila were arrested by Delhi police on charges of spot-fixing during the sixth edition of the IPL. The after-effects of the case saw the then BCCI president N Srinivasan getting sacked from his post by the Supreme Court as his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan became a prime suspect in the case.

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The Apex court then took it upon itself to clean up the BCCI by appointing the Lodha Committee, headed by former Chief Justice RM Lodha, which laid down numerous suggestions to introduce certain reform the Indian cricket board. The BCCI refused to get bogged down by the Lodha reforms and kept on challenging it but to no avail as the SC paid no heed to the boards delaying tactics and finally on January 2, 2016, sacked Anurag Thakur from his post as BCCI president and secretary Ajay Shirke for failing to implement the reforms.

The BCCI vs Lodha Committee saga finally seems to have come to an end now with the beginning of a new year. We can now hope to see cricket take centrestage once again. A lot of credit must go to the Indian cricket team and its management for not letting all these controversies affect its performance on the field. 2016 has been one of the best years for Indian cricket with the Test team, led by Virat Kohli, registering a record nine wins. The team also reclaimed the top spot in the ICC rankings while Mahendra Singh Dhoni's limited-overs side clinched the Asia Cup title and won ODI series against Zimbabwe and New Zealand late last year.

CHALLENGES FOR INDIA IN 2017

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There is a lot to look forward to in 2017 with some important series lined up for India starting with the ODIs against England starting from January 15 in Pune. Interestingly, BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke, who has now been sacked by the Supreme Court, is the head of the Maharashtra Cricket Association which is based in Pune and will be in charge of hosting the Test match against the Aussies in the city.

The ODIs against England will be followed by a historic one-off Test against Bangladesh next month. India was the first team to tour Bangladesh in 2000 and since then has been playing Tests and ODIs regularly against them. But for the first time the Bangla Tigers will be visiting India to play a Test match at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Hyderabad from February 8.

Australia will then visit India for a four-Test series starting from February 23 in Pune. The series will then move on to Bengaluru, then Ranchi and finally conclude in Dharamsala, which is again the home for the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association headed by the now-sacked Anurag Thakur.

CHAMPIONS TROPHY 2017

The next big assignment for India will be the ICC Champions Trophy in June which will be held in England. India are the defending champions and will have to defend their title which they had won back by beating hosts England in 2013.

All eyes will also be on world champions Australia and they will be under a bit of pressure to light up another ICC tournament after their World Cup success in 2015.

INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

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The IPL has always been controversies favourite child thanks to the huge amount of money and superstars involved in the tournament. But putting aside all the negatives, the IPL still remains the most watched domestic cricket tournament in the world which has consistently produced some of the best cricket players every season.

The two-month long tournament has a naughty reputation of making or breaking careers of international cricket players and it will be in focus once again this year. Expectations will be high from Kohli to steal the show yet again after the breathtaking season he had last year with a record 973 runs from 16 matches. His team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, will also be under pressure to win the tournament this year after reaching the final for the second time in 2016.

PRESSURE ON KOHLI, ASHWIN, SMITH, ROOT TO REPEAT MAGIC RUN

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Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin owned Test cricket last year with their stellar performances throughout the year. Ashwin in particular was in the form of his life with 72 wickets and 612 runs in nine matches while Kohli amassed 1215 runs at an average of 75.06 including a record three double hundreds.

International stars Steve Smith, David Warner, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were also in tremendous form last year in both Tests and ODIs. Root was the highest run-scorer in Tests with 1477 runs in 17 matches followed by Bairstow with 1470 runs. Warner (2374 international runs) was consistently scoring runs in all three formats while his captain, Smith, was in even better form with 2406 international runs. These young superstars have the responsibility of carrying world cricket on their shoulders and will once again be in focus in the new year.

EMERGING CRICKETERS IN 2017

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Last year international cricket saw the emergence of a few highly-talented players from all over the world. Cricketers like Jayant Yadav and Karun Nair from India, Kagiso Rabada from South Africa, Mehedi Hassan and Mustafizur Rahman from Bangladesh etc, took international cricket by storm with their stellar performances in limited-overs and Test cricket.

Mustafizur, who made his international debut in 2015, really came into his own last year and produced outstanding performances in the World T20 and played a key role in Sunrisers Hyderabad's victorious campaign in IPL 9. Mehedi, who made his debut against England in the two-Test series in October, almost single-handedly led Bangladesh to victory with 19 wickets at an average of 15.63.

Mehedi looks a bright prospect and a future star already. 2017 will give more chances to players like Mehedi and more to showcase their talents on the field.

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