June 30, 2013

Dhoni-inspired comeback guys earn India unexpected glory


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It was the best Indian fielding side in memory which, driven by the forceful captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, made the decisive contribution in clinching the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England.

India won the final, reduced to a 20 overs-a-side contest following the expected rains for the better part of the day, against the hosts by just five runs. Besides holding on to a few superb catches, which were made to look easy, they also fielded brilliantly to prevent easy runs which made the difference between winning and losing. 

No matter how brilliantly they had been playing for the past couple of weeks, the Champions Trophy would not have come in their grasp if they lost intensity even for a minute in the final while defending a modest score. 

Mind you this was not a brand new Indian side with only teenagers in their folds. As a matter of fact there were no debutants in the 15-member squad that had been selected for the Champions Trophy by the panel headed by Sandeep Patil.

There were fringe cricketers, staging a comeback into the side, who followed the script of coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper M S Dhoni and turned the tide decisively. The enigmatic Rohit Sharma finally showed some consistency while Shikar Dawan, returning after injury, blasted away merrily. 

Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni were the only two batsmen occupying permanent place in the playing eleven for some time. Dinesh Karthik made the cut at the strength of his back to back centuries in the warm-up games leading to the big event. 

Suresh Raina was considered a doubtful starter in view of his known weaknesses in handling short balls. Ravindra Jadeja wasn’t a certainity either with Irfan Pathan also in the run due to the climatic factor. 

Ravichandaran Ashwin was the first-choice spinner and medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was deemed a lethal weapon in English conditions. But the Indians were unsure about their two other quickies at the start of the tournament. They began with Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.

India’s sensational performance in both the warm-up matches must have given them enormous confidence but not many people expected them to perform so consistently and impressively in the tournament itself. They were not even required to make a single change in their line-up in five matches with the quartet of Irfan Pathan, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra and Murali Vijay watching their teammates to do the business. 

The Indian selectors deserve to be complimented to have made the bold moves which paid the dividends. They recalled the players whom they considered capable and worthy to deliver in the tough playing conditions of England. 

The standout performance suggested that the selectors and the captain were on the same page. M S Dhoni looked in complete command of the situation and his leadership was the key to the success achieves in the unlikeliest of circumstances. His couple of brilliant stumpings in the final reminded everyone that he remains one of the best wicketkeepers, if not the best, in the game besides being a world-class batsman and captain.


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