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2016 in Retrospect: With stupendous performances, 2016 has been a year of fireworks for Indian Cricket

India not only whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0 but also grabbed their spot back on top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings

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New Delhi, December 25, 2016: It has been a year of fireworks for Indian cricket. The players have unfurled stupendous performances to close the year as the top ranked Test team, while off the field, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) top brass have been at the receiving end of the Supreme Court’s ire for defying the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations.

The year started with India reclaiming the lost glory in the T20 format in which they were the inaugural champions in 2007, and eventually ended with the team completing a 4-0 humiliation of England to consolidate the numero uno spot in the longest format.

While Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team lost out to eventual champions West Indies in the World Twenty20 semi-finals, Virat Kohli ensured that 2016 ended with India extending their winning streak to 18 Tests — the longest since March 1987.

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Here is a look at India’s overall performance throughout the year:

With the focus on T20s, India started the year with the limited overs tour Down Under where the Men-In-Blue flunked miserably in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series to go down 1-4. However, India bounced back well in the shortest format, completing a 3-0 whitewash of the Kangaroos in their own den.

Back home, India had to pass the Sri Lankan test before proceeding to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup T20. The hosts were off to a shocking loss to the young Sri Lankan side in the first match, but Dhoni’s army soon rediscovered their mojo to win the next two matches and win the series.

After the 2-1 drubbing of Sri Lanka, India headed to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup, which was clipped to a T20 tournament for the first time ever. The Indians defeated the hosts in their first outing before convincingly outclassing their arch-rivals Pakistan, and went on to beat Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In the rain-marred final, India were up against the home side, but Dhoni’s men had no trouble in lifting the title. The Asia Cup title put India in good stead to reclaim the World T20 crown, which has been evading them since the inaugural edition in 2007.

Hosted for the first time in India, the home side went into the tournament as the hot favourites but Dhoni’s men were off to a nightmarish start, losing to New Zealand in their opening match.

The hosts, however, recovered from the early jolt as they beat Pakistan in their next outing before winning a nail-biting tie against Bangladesh and then needed a Virat Kohli-special to tame Australia in a must-win tie.

Despite getting their campaign back on track with three hard-fought wins, India went down to eventual champions, the West Indies, in the semi-final played at the Wankhede Stadium — to be deprived of the title once again.

A week after the World T20, the Indian Premier League (IPL) started and it mostly centred on a marauding Virat Kohli, who took T20 batting to a completely new level, slamming four centuries to end as the highest run-getter with 973 runs.

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Despite his glorious run with the willow, Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) once again failed to lift the title, as they lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the final.

The IPL followed the brief tour to Zimbabwe, where a second string Indian side was enough to dish out a 3-0 whitewash to the hosts. But the African minnows salvaged some pride in the first T20 before India managed to find their feet and clinch the remaining two games to pocket the series 2-1.

India then headed off to the West Indies to kick off their long Test season ahead. Kohli led the team from the front in the first Test with his maiden double ton to comprehensively beat the hosts by an innings and 92 runs before drawing the remaining two matches as India got back to the No.1 ranking again, albeit for a short while.

After the Tests, both the sides headed to Florida in the United States, where they faced off in two T20 Internationals.

India suffered a nail-biting one-run defeat in the first T20I before incessant rain disrupted the next match midway after the West Indies’ innings.

Back in their own den, Kohli’s boys after losing their No.1 rank to Pakistan had nothing but one thing on mind — to reclaim their number one spot in the three-Test rubber against New Zealand.

India not only whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0 but also grabbed their spot back on top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings.

Thereafter, the Blackcaps gave a good fight in the five-match ODI series, where fortunes fluctuated after each game to make it 2-2, the final game in Visakhapatnam becoming the decider. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s heroics (5/18) helped India romp home comfortably to take the series 3-2.

After barely a week’s rest, Kohli’s brigade was up for the English challenge, involving five Tests against a side to whom they had lost their last three series drastically.

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After drawing the first Test at Rajkot, Kohli and Co. took the challenge hands down as India handed Alastair Cook’s men a 4-0 drubbing to end the year at the zenith of the Test rankings with 120 points.

In the limited-overs formats, India finished the year at No.3 in ODIs and at No.2 in T20Is.

Off the field, it was the tussle between the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee and the BCCI that created the headlines.

Despite repeated warnings from the apex court, including possible charges of perjury against the incumbent BCCI President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke, to adhere to the Lodha panel’s recommendations for cleansing the mess within the cricket board, an adament BCCI is still to toe the Supreme Court’s line. (IANS)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)