Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pleasingly dominant: India in the Champions Trophy 2013

India are tantalizingly close - just one match away - from winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 and finishing off an almost perfect tournament. I think (probably this is the general consensus as well) that no other Indian team has played this well - in the sense of being so dominant in winning their matches - on route to reaching the final of a major tournament.
For just about as long as I can remember, we have been a batting side, that has tried its best to make up for the deficiencies in bowling and win matches. The format of ODIs is such that you need to score just one more run to win and almost all of our success in this format (90s and later) have come up on the back of our strong batting. At the same time, India's lack of bowling strength has resulted in a lot of matches being close - as the opposition have the chance to remain in the game for a longer time.
So, it has been refreshing to see India win matches so convincingly so far. At the same time perhaps, it is a reflection that sides across the cricketing world are not too strong at the moment - a number of teams are struggling, going through transitions and facing a talent crunch as well. What this Indian team has done well in the tournament is to capitalize on the weakness of the opposition and be ruthless.
At the start of the tournament, no one was really sure of what to make of this Indian squad - a squad missing some of India's most experienced players. India entered this tournament as the reigning World Cup Champions and the #1 ranked side in ODI cricket and yet I am sure not too many had them high up in the list of favourites. There were far too many unknowns in the mix. It is also worth remembering that the pre-tournament shenanighans of the IPL and match fixing meant that there was a lot to be distracted about. But the relative youth of the side has resulted in an energy and freshness on the field that has been brilliant to watch - the fielding has been spectacular, the bowling - competent and the batting led by Shikhar Dhawan - dominant.
The One (Pic: Cricinfo)
India will face the hosts and one of the pre-tournament favourites England in the final at Edgbaston tomorrow. English cricket has been on the up for almost a decade now. They are about to embark on an 10 test - back to back - Ashes series against the currently struggling Australians soon. But before that, England have a great opportunity of winning their 1st major ODI tournament. There cricket has been played in a contrasting style but in Captain Cook, Jonathon Trott and Jimmy Anderson - they have the players - more than capable of winning them the final. But more than individual players - the English team is built on a method and in their own conditions are going to be tough team to beat.
India have a fair chance of winning it all tomorrow, but then so do England. It is an interesting thought to ponder, but would we celebrate the performance of this thus far dominant Indian team - a few years down the line - should they fail to win tomorrow. I think we should but it is a question best left hypothetical. It is also great to have a certain feeling back - the feeling of anticipation before an ODI final. Most of the ODI cricket played in recent years have been bilateral series and unless there is a decider involved - one generally misses out on the feeling of an all or nothing, winner take all final. The fickle English weather, a bunch of ball tamperers and a rather good cricket team stand in the way of India and the Champions Trophy. May we end up edging it at Edgbaston !

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