When MS Dhoni dips his hand into the excuses jar to try to explain away his side’s latest defeat, he’ll find himself groping hopelessly around some empty glass. Gone are the days of being able to use “It’s just a hangover from the World Cup”, or “These conditions don’t suit us”, or “Just wait until we get you at home”. One by one each of these, which may have had some merit at the time, has been proven to be little more than the Indian skipper performing his own roving Comical Ali tribute act. 2012 began with one of the great beatings in Sydney and ended with having their behinds handed to them by Pakistan in Chennai, while in-between they managed to let Dave Warner score a century in about ten minutes, lose to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and lose twice to England at home. The fact that it’s quite difficult to work out which is the most humiliating moment of India’s year is a damning indictment indeed.
Even the positives were tinged with disaster; Sachin Tendulkar’s long-awaited hundredth hundred came in the aforementioned Asia Cup game with Bangladesh, but it was made so slowly it was a key factor in the embarrassing defeat that followed. Tendulkar’s form before his pretend landmark century was bad, afterwards it completely went to pieces. While Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman took their leave graciously (if a little belatedly), Sachin spent 2012 desperately trying to fight his own leave off, with dignity laying forgotten in the corner. He is not alone, as Virender Sehwag also decided to stick it to the bitter end, making himself look even more of a fat, doddery old bloke than usual in the process.
India’s only Test series victory came against New Zealand, a feat South Africa are currently making look even less impressive than it did at the time, while their only ODI triumph came against Sri Lanka, a feat Australia are currently making look even less impressive than it did at the time. On the back of those, India would have looked at the final part of the year, with the World T20 followed by England visiting, as a sure-fire way of turning the year into a success. Oops.
In a way, the T20 shindig was a microcosm of the year as a whole; beginning with comic ineptitude as they did everything but lose to Afghanistan, picking up with the thrashing of a rubbish team before ending in absolute farce. Only Shane Watson actually beat India in Sri Lanka, but thanks to the cunning work of Pakistan (combined with the epic rules of the tournament which meant demolishing England in the group stage was utterly worthless) their final game with South Africa turned out to be a completely dead game, with both teams eliminated before the match began. We were treated to a spectacle only cricket can provide, as a game about which absolutely no-one on earth cared went down to the final ball. Only Morne Morkel’s total determination to avoid it prevented the contest going to the most pointless, hilarious Super Over of all time.
India’s T20 performance wasn’t all that bad, but barely having a shout of making the semi-finals was another slap in the face for the team as a whole. A slap, it turned out, just helpfully readying their face for the absolute beating it was about to receive. England’s win, and the home side’s failings, has been spoken of enough. Suffice to say that, generally, if the entire cricket world is laughing at you something’s gone pretty wrong. That, ultimately, was the story of India’s year. It was a right giggle for everybody else.