The Indian cricket team had a record-breaking 2017. The numbers are strong – even though they have played all their cricket in the subcontinent and majority of it at home. They won a staggering 37 out of 52 matches in all formats – their highest ever, and second only to the great Australian team of 2001. The team had its best-ever ODI stats: 21 wins in 29 games, without losing a single bilateral series. The only disappointment: losing the Champions Trophy Final to Pakistan. India is now the Number 1 ranked Test side in world cricket, and the Number 2 ranked ODI and T20 side. Virat Kohli ended as the top scorer of the year, while 'new' spinners like Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav successfully replaced R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in limited-overs cricket. Rohit Sharma broke six-hitting records and Cheteshwar Pujara scored more test runs than any other Indian.
With such a heady year behind them, at the end of a long home season, India will now leave the warm comforts of their conditions to travel overseas in 2018.
Indian Cricket in 2018 could bear a very different look. Yet, with so many young players and confidence on their backs, many expect India to enjoy their most successful season abroad in a decade. It has been a while since the Indian team has won anything of meaning outside, but 2018 holds promise for the way they have developed since 2015. Many believe that this won’t be like the dark seasons of 2011 and 2014 – India went 8-0 in England and Australia in 2011, and 5-1 in the two countries in 2014.
Here are our predictions for the Indian cricket team in their upcoming tours:
INDIA’S TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA (DECEMBER TO FEBRUARY)
Test Series: India will go with virtually zero preparation time into the first Test at Cape Town in the new year. The No. 1 team in the world will take on the No. 2 side. By the time they get used to the conditions, they could well be down in the series. The form of Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma will be crucial to their performance over the three-test series. India’s best was a fighting 1-1 result back in 2009-10, with Tendulkar and Kallis headlining the battles. Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will be back in action in Test cricket after injury issues. India could still have a good Test out of three, but might find it difficult to win outright.
Prediction: 2-0 to South Africa (weather permitting)
ODI Series: India has traditionally always had a stronger limited-overs outfit in overseas series. They might just win the “dead rubber” test match, which will give them confidence going into the ODI series. Expect Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli to top the scoring charts.
Prediction: 4-2 to India
T20 Series: Both sides have explosive players. India will hope to end the long tour on a positive note. But the hosts, with David Miller, AB de Villiers and Quinton De Kock could have the last laugh.
Prediction: 2-1 to South Africa
In between this tour and the IPL in April, there will be no international cricket for India – unless they decide to call favorite whipping boys Sri Lanka over for a quick turnaround ODI home series, in which case…
Prediction: 4-1 to India
INDIA’S TOUR OF ENGLAND (JUNE-SEPTEMBER)
T20 Series: I’m not sure it will be to India’s advantage to start their most testing tour in their most difficult country with the limited-overs leg. England has a very strong T20 and ODI outfit, in contrast to their ailing Test outfit under Joe Root. These three matches won’t set the tone for the tour to come, but it will be a difficult eye-opener for the Indians.
Prediction: 3-0 to England
ODI Series: The short ODI series could be a better competition for India, led by a man who will be determined to make up for his failures in 2014. Virat Kohli won’t fail very often, especially in his favorite format. By now, expect a few new young faces in the Indian team, auditioning for the 2019 World Cup in these conditions.
Prediction: 2-1 to India
Test Series: Pakistan did themselves proud in 2016 by drawing a Test series 2-2 in England – something that Australia, South Africa and India have failed to do in the last few tours. England is a tough host, and they present tough conditions for batting-heavy teams. But it all depends on how strong or confident the hosts are after being demolished in the Ashes. There might be no Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes will be everything for them. India will hope to do better than 2014, where they took a shock lead at Lord’s because of Rahane’s brilliant innings but lost three out of the next four matches to go down again. Kohli had an average of 5 in those 10 innings.
West Indies Tour of India (October to November)
After tough overseas contests for 9 months, India will be happy to see West Indies in their own backyard. There is no way the Islanders will win much – and this will boost the averages and spirits of many Indian batsmen who might have failed in the previous series in England. West Indies will wake up in the T20 format, though, given that Gayle is now out to prove a point after a horrid IPL in 2017.
Test Series: 2-0 to India
ODI Series: 4-1 to India
T20 Series: West Indies
INDIA’S TOUR OF AUSTRALIA (Nov to January 2019)
Test Series: Australia will find India as a tougher opponent compared to the current England Ashes side. By then, the batsmen and bowlers will feel like warriors who have survived South Africa and England. They take to the batting-friendly Australian pitches better than the other countries – demonstrated by their narrow 2-0 loss in 2014, where Virat Kohli scored 4 centuries in 4 Test Matches, second only to Steve Smith’s 5. But it will be the mind games and bad blood between the two that will ignite one of them more than the other. Expect a few surprises.