India has made it a habit in the last couple of seasons to first get into a rut, make the situation critical and then climb out of it with their heads held high and the recently concluded Celkon Cup tri series in the West Indies was no different either! Right before the start of the tournament I had written that India had every chance of winning the tournament given their excellent limited over form. It was their form that had got them the numero uno spot just prior to their victorious and dominating Champions Trophy campaign. In the first couple of matches of this tournament, however, Dhoni & Co. had made it extremely difficult for itself with consecutive losses and, if my memory serves me correctly, conceded bonus points in those matches. Questions were also being raised regarding the focus of the team and the aftereffects of playing non-stop cricket for months.
The fact that it was able to come out of that predicament and that too on top of the table was an excellent display of the team’s willpower and cricketing character. In fact, Virat Kohli, the stand-in captain, had stated after the league phase ended that he was proud of the character shown by the team. I think it was this character that prompted Dhoni to come back and fight it out in spite of the injury he had received.
The basis of any team’s performance, especially a winning one, is a solid all-round performance from the majority of its team members and it was no different in case of India as well. Rohit Sharma, who has been the butt of many jokes, showed that he has been able to eschew his talent with the consistency that it demands and applied himself in trying circumstances. He was ably accompanied by Virat Kohli who scored a magnificent century against the Lankans in the 3rd match to help India’s campaign get of the blocks and Suresh Raina who was consistent throughout without going on to something big.
However, it was MS Dhoni, who really took the cake here as well with that splendid innings in the final to help his team win the series. He showed yet again why he is regarded as one of the best finishers of the limited overs game and fully justified his decision to play in spite of being absent hurt in the league games. Big players are always able to choose the perfect moment to leave their mark and Dhoni opted for the final to make his own indelible impression – a true champion indeed!
India also has a core of young all-rounders like Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar and Jadeja and all of them are exceptional bowlers as well. One feels that they are going to serve the team really well in the days ahead. Even though Ashwin was relatively quiet in this series, Bhuvaneshwar and Jadeja performed really well with 10 and 8 wickets respectively. In fact, Bhuvaneshwar is nowadays being compared to a certain Glenn McGrath thanks to his similar adherence to a consistent line and length.
Fast bowlers Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma also performed well with 7 and 8 wickets and it was really a mystery – at least for me it was – as to how Vinay Kumar got into the finals! However, he did justify his selection with a controlled spell of seam and swing bowling, something that is always expected and something that he delivers with remarkable consistency.
There are many challenging journeys ahead and one only hopes that the team comes out on top. From a neutral perspective, it seems that the team has what it takes to do well for a longer period of time and is poised to bring more moments of happiness for the ardent lovers of Indian cricket.