Thanks to an extended home season, 2016 could be a very successful year for Indian cricket

Thanks to an extended home season, 2016 could be a very successful year for Indian cricket
Photo Credit: Jekesai Njikizana / AFP
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On the whole, the Indian cricket team will be more than satisfied with their performance in 2015. It does not look like the much hyped India-Pakistan series will take place anytime soon so India will finish the year second on the Test and One Day International rankings. There have been minor blips, the most major among them being the loss in the ODI series to Bangladesh. But on the whole, India’s performance in the Test circuit has been mightily impressive.

2016 brings with it a new set of challenges. Indian fans are in for a delight, not only will the World Twenty20 Championship be held here, but India are also slated to play two major home series.

January 2016: Tour of Australia
Right at the beginning of the year, India go Down Under to play five ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals in what will probably be their biggest challenge of the year. Australia are tough to beat at home and they have already proved that to India – defeating them in the World Cup semi-final in 2015 and the tri-series which preceded that. India’s form in ODIs has not been great, considering they lost against Bangladesh and South Africa, and it is not going to be easy for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men. The spinners will be neutralised so they will have to hope that the pacers come to the party.

February: Sri Lanka will visit
India are slated to host Sri Lanka for a five-match ODI series as well as three-match Twenty20 series in February but so far only the venues for the Twenty20 series have been announced. Despite their home advantage, Sri Lanka are ranked top in the Twenty20 rankings and will not be easy to beat in limited-overs competition. If the ODI series takes place, India will probably fancy their chances, especially at home, but considering their dismal T20 record of late (they are ranked seventh), Sri Lanka will start as favourites.

February-March: Asia Cup in Bangladesh
For the first time in its history, the Asia Cup will be a T20 event as it will be held just before the World T20. This looks set to be a keenly contested event. Bangladesh have proven themselves on home turf, India will enjoy the turning conditions on offer, Sri Lanka are the defending champions while Pakistan are, well, Pakistan. Besides, if the proposed India-Pakistan series does not take place, we might get to finally see the arch-rivals taking on each other once again.

March-April: ICC World Twenty20, India
As Star Sports has been reminding viewers over the past few weeks, the last time India hosted a World Cup in cricket, it went on to win it. The schedule and the format have just been revealed and if India fancied that that it would be an easy walk in the park, they were mistaken. India are in the Group of Death and will be up against Australia and New Zealand, not to forget the small matter of facing Pakistan in Dharamsala. Captain Dhoni has hinted that this could be his swansong on the international stage and what better way to end a glittering career than to finish it by doing a repeat of 2007?

June:  Tour of Zimbabwe
After the glut of limited-overs matches, India are scheduled to tour Zimbabwe in June for a Test and three ODIs. Since India toured Zimbabwe just a year back, it remains to be seen if they will go ahead and tour again. If they do go to the African nation, expect another second-string side to be sent.

July-August: Tour of West Indies
Even this series looks dicey considering the strained relationship between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and West Indies Cricket Board. The BCCI had scrapped the tour and imposed sanctions on their West Indian counterparts, after the West Indies team walked out of their tour of India citing pay disputes with their board in October 2014. However, the two boards have been mediating with each other and there is every chance that the tour will go ahead as scheduled.

And if it does, no one will be a happier man than Virat Kohli. West Indies are a team which are a pitiful shadow of their former selves and Kohli has an excellent opportunity to script another away win.

August: Visit by Bangladesh
No one really knows what these one-off Tests are supposed to signify but Bangladesh are supposed to tour India to play one grand Test. If it indeed takes place, the BCCI should ensure that they choose the venue carefully, considering that August, being the middle of monsoon, is not the best time to play cricket in India (or anywhere in the subcontinent).

October-November: Visit by New Zealand
India have an extended home season next year which begins with a visit from New Zealand for a stipulated three Tests and five ODIs. Under Brendon McCullum, New Zealand have positioned themselves as the most exciting team in world cricket but playing in India against the guile of Ashwin and Co will not be easy for the Black Caps. What makes it even more difficult is that after the retirement of Vettori, New Zealand’s spin attack is amateurish, at best.

November-December: Visit by England

England come over once the Kiwis have left for five Tests and this looks set to be an exciting tour. England were brilliant the last time they toured India in 2012 with the heroics of Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar providing them a rare series victory in the subcontinent. Things have changed now – and while England have a better spin attack than most teams, they will be challenged in India. Virat Kohli, on the other hand, will be looking forward to gain revenge on the English for the loss in 2012.