Intro: The year 2020 witnessed a paucity of live sport like we hadn’t seen in decades. For fans, it meant staying away from stadiums for a large part of the year.
New Delhi: On March 8, the world witnessed an important chapter in professional sports. It was the day the Women’s T20 World Cup final was played between Australia and India at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, which set a new record for crowd attendance in a stadium for a women’s cricket match.
Things went silent afterwards as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
At the US Open, for instance, which boasts of the biggest tennis stadium in the world, it has always been thoroughly enjoyable to see the rapturous New York crowd dive into each match.
But this year, the Arthur Ashe Stadium was devoid of fans and that too provided a fascinating look at professional tennis.
Take the case of Liverpool fans. Their team ended a 30-year-long, agonising wait for the Premier League title. For many, it was a first in their lifetime. But none could be there at Anfield to witness that piece of history when Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy. So many of those fans would have rehearsed that moment in their minds for years, but the pandemic robbed them of it.
The Tokyo Olympics, which were slated to be held in July-August this year, had to be postponed to summer of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When one looks at 2020, which would go down in history as the ‘Year of Covid-19’, one finds that the performance of both Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams did not meet the expectations of millions of followers in cricket crazy India — and perhaps, their own, too.
And the recent debacle of Virat Kohli’s boys against the Aussies at the Adelaide Oval rubbed salt into the wounds of Indian cricket fans who have already been busy tackling the pandemic.
The men’s team played a total of 23 international matches — three Tests, 11 T20Is, nine ODIs, and 11 T20Is. It lost all three Tests this year (but won the Boxing Day Test in style against Australia in Melbourne), though it registered wins in 10 T20s and three ODIs, all against Australia.
Losing just one of the 11 T20 matches is appreciable. Had the T20 World Cup taken place this October, as originally scheduled, this performance would have been considered as good preparation. The World Cup has been postponed to the next year because of the pandemic.
However, it’s the other two formats — Tests and ODIs — that Kohli talks about and pays more importance to, where the team’s performance has been poor. While India lost six of the nine ODIs they played, they failed to register a single win in Test matches and even lost the number one spots both on the ICC rankings and the ICC Test Championship.
On the other hand, the Test team did not perform well. Towards the end of the year, India began the defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on an abysmal note as they slumped to their lowest innings score in 88 years of Test cricket when they were dismissed for 36 runs in the second innings of the day-night first Test against Tim Paine’s Australia.
The scores of the Indian players read: 4, 9, 2, 0, 4, 0, 8, 4, 0, 4, 1, which newspapers used as their headlines to describe what turned out to be the most dismal batting performance by an Indian Test team ever.
On an individual note, Kohli, 32, the linchpin of Indian batting, finished the year without an international hundred — a first since his debut in international cricket in 2011. Also, star players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, and Jasprit Bumrah were not able to win matches for their team.
On the women front, the Indian team played 11 international matches — all T20 internationals. Out of these they registered wins in eight matches. Going by the numbers, the performance of the Indian team looks highly impressive.