2018 was another phenomenal year for Indian Cricket. In spite of losing the three-match Test series 1-2 against the Proteas (away), the 63-run win at the Wanderers in Johannesburg served as a morale booster ahead of the limited-overs, which the Men in Blue dominated by winning the six-match ODI series 5-1 and the three-match T20I series 2-1.
Following it was an emphatic win at the 2018 Nidahas Trophy Tri-series (T20Is) involving hosts Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, courtesy Dinesh Karthik's astonishing cameo towards the end. The wicketkeeper-batsman's six off the final delivery in which five runs were needed, turned out to be one of the most unforgettable moments of 2018.
India's next International assignment was the historic one-off Test against Afghanistan at Bengaluru in which the number-one ranked Test side defeated the Test newbies by an innings and 262 runs. A 2-0 win against hosts Ireland in the two-match T20I series was followed by a gruelling full-fledged tour of England. Though India won the T20I series 2-1, they lost the ODIs against Eoin Morgan's men by the same margin before the highly-anticipated five-match Test series, which the hosts won 4-1 under Joe Root.
Following the Test debacle at the Old Blighty, India lifted the 2018 Asia Cup at the United Arab Emirates by defeating Bangladesh in a dramatic fashion.
Then, they welcomed the West Indies for a two-match Test series (won 2-0), five ODIs (won 3-1) and threeT20Is (won 3-0). After dominating the Windies across all formats, India began their Australian tour with a positive frame of mind. In the three-match T20I series, fate had other ideas as Kohli's men failed to post victories in the first two matches as rain played spoilsport (series levelled at 1-1).
But they began the Test series on a winning note by clinching the first game at Adelaide by 31 runs. In spite of losing the second Test at Perth, they came back stronger at Melbourne thereby defeating the Aussies at the MCG for the first time since 1981. Though it was a collective effort that brought immense success for India this year, let us look at five players who were the unsung heroes for Team India in 2018.
5) Shikhar Dhawan
'Gabbar', who was consistent as well unstoppable in the limited-overs finished 2018 as the highest run-getter in the T20Is with 689 runs in 18 matches (includes six half-centuries) at a strike-rate of 147.22, with his highest score being 92.
Dhawan was India's third highest run-getter in the ODIs with 897 runs in 19 matches (includes two half-centuries and three centuries) at an average of 49.83 with his highest score being 127. The southpaw's contributions at the top of the order were vital in laying perfect platform for the Indian middle-order to takeover.
4) Kuldeep Yadav
The slow left-arm chinaman bowler has become a mainstay in India's limited-overs XI- courtesy his exploits across different conditions. The 24-year-old who made his ODI debut in June last year ended 2018 has the second highest wicket-taker (ODIs) with 45 scalps in 19 matches at an economy of 4.64 with his best figures being 6/25. Kuldeep played a pivotal role in India's 5-1 win in the ODI series against South Africa (away) finishing as the highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets in six matches.
Along with Yuzvendra Chahal, he formed a deadly duo, spinning a web around the Proteas batsmen. Kuldeep continued his exploits with the ball during the limited-overs leg against England picking up five wickets (in two T20Is) and nine wickets (in three ODIs) respectively.
Kuldeep was equally good in the T20Is, picking up 21 wickets in nine T20Is this year. A chinaman bowler is always a rare commodity and especially Kuldeep with his bowling credentials is currently one of the top spinners in the world.
3) Rohit Sharma
When it comes to the limited overs, there is no stopping 'Hitman' Rohit Sharma. The Mumbaikar was ruthless as usual at the top of the order for the Men in Blue apart from leading the side occasionally in Virat Kohli's absence.
In fact, Rohit has been immensely successful as the Indian skipper having won the Nidahas Trophy, the coveted 2018 Asia Cup and a whitewash against West Indies in the T20I series this year.
In fact, Rohit was praised for his leadership skills during the continental tournament where the Men in Blue successfully defended their title at Dubai. Rohit finished 2018 as the second highest run-getter with 1030 runs in 19 matches (includes three half-centuries and five centuries) at an average of 73.57, with his highest score being 162.
The man who holds the record for the most number of T20I centuries (four centuries in T20Is) amassed 590 runs in 19 matches at a strike-rate of 147.50 thereby finishing as the second highest run-getter in T20Is this year.
2) Jasprit Bumrah
Bumrah finished 2018 as the highest wicket-taker across all formats of the game, picking up 78 wickets in the calendar year. A match-winner with the ball, the Gujarat pacer was one of the main reasons for India's excellence in the bowling department this year. With 48 wickets in nine matches, Bumrah finished 2018 as the fourth highest wicket-taker in Tests. His nine wickets at the MCG in the recently concluded Boxing Day Test is a perfect example of his credentials with the cherry across different pitch conditions.
The number-one ranked ODI bowler took 22 wickets in 13 ODIs this year at an economy of 4.85, with his best figures being 4/35. Though he made his Test debut in January 2018, his journey to success in the ultimate has been meteoric. The Indian fans might be hoping that the pace sensation's purple patch continues at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
1) Virat Kohli
The most trusted batsman, a determined skipper and an unsung hero. This pretty much sums up the flamboyant Indian skipper, Virat Kohli who does the talking with his willow. Records continued to tumble this year as well as Virat ended 2018 as the highest run-scorer across all the formats.
Having amassed 2735 runs that included 11 International centuries, it was another record-breaking for Virat, who became the first batsman on this planet to score 2500-plus International runs for three consecutive years (2016, 2017 and 2018).
He also broke Sachin Tendulkar's 17-year-old record by reaching his 25th Test ton in 127 innings. Virat dominated the Test and ODI arena by finishing as the highest run-getter in both the formats of the game.
The Indian skipper, who amassed 1202 runs in 14 ODIs scored 1322 runs in 13 Test matches this year. More records might tumble if Virat continues his beast mode when it comes to scoring runs across formats!