While browsing through the musings of Facebook friends, I found a picture which has been doing its rounds on the internet for a while now. Divided into two, the top half has MS Dhoni celebrating the World Cup win with his teammates, while the bottom half has Sourav Ganguly holding up the Natwest Trophy from the Lord’s balcony after that legendary final in 2002. The caption of the image read, “Dhoni is the captain of the best Indian cricket team. Ganguly was the best captain of the Indian cricket team.”
As someone who enjoys irony, I chuckled to myself when I saw that Ganguly, who did not have the privilege of captaining the ‘best Indian cricket side’, had Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble right next to him in the very same image. We harp on about how we want the ‘golden generation’ back, but we’ll still talk about Dhoni not being the best captain, but just plain lucky to have under him a talented and, evidently, the ‘best’ batch of cricketers. I believe that any statement of the sort made in that image is equivalent to defacing any contribution Tendulkar, Dravid, and even Dhoni, has made to Indian cricket.
I’ve constantly talked about living in an age of understatement, where we will refuse to build anybody up. On one hand, that’s a good thing in terms of trying to keep a player’s feet on the ground, but on the other, happiness is something that will elude us forever and more. Cynicism is one thing, plain ignorance is another.
Ganguly’s team created something extraordinary. They started out as something as small and insignificant as a speck of dust, and ended with a monument of achievements and reputation. They built something no previous Indian side had done, not even the ’83 squad. They built a legacy. A foundation upon which Indian cricket could now leapfrog to greatness.
In 2011, that was finally achieved when India defeated Sri Lanka in the World Cup final in Mumbai. A feat which Dravid, Ganguly, and Kumble couldn’t achieve was now conquered by Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra. Yesterday, Michael Vaughan said that he thinks the current Indian squad competing for the Champions Trophy is stronger than the team that won the World Cup.
There has never been a dearth of talent in the Indian squad; just a lack of application.
About a year and a half ago, India were left hapless in the same conditions against England and came back home to abuse and scorn. And ever since then, the team has gone through a period of intense scrutiny and criticism, losing at regular intervals to teams with reputations far less glorified than theirs, tiffs between players, and more recently, match fixing scandals. Their performance in the Champions Trophy so far is a display of their resilience more than their talent, and of Dhoni’s ever-cool composure.
As a leader, one of the most important functions is to keep the morale of the team high and that would have been a steep task following the debacle that was the IPL. For India to come through that with a ruthless spirit is a highly commendable achievement; and Dhoni’s hand in this cannot be undermined.
India have easily looked like the best team in the tournament, trampling over their opponents like they’re mere pieces of rubbish meant to be immediately thrown into the nearest dustbin. Pairing Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma has turned out to be a masterstroke and Jadeja has evolved into a brilliant all-rounder with vast amounts of cricketing intelligence.
If the historic Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2001 was the event that kicked off the Ganguly revolution, this tournament could mean the start of something new and wonderful for Indian cricket.
To say that this team is the better than the 2011 cricket team is too early a reaction. The 2011 squad, when in full-flow, could end careers with one great performance. But somewhere, that team lacked a camaraderie Ganguly’s team had, and Dhoni’s team today has. It was an amalgamation of the past and the present, and like an arranged marriage, both sides kept to themselves leaving pockets of awkward silences in the dressing room.
The Champions Trophy team is a complete set of the current generation, who can relate with each other with ease. The team not only could be better than the 2011 squad, but surely has the potential to be the best ever. All it requires, and as I mentioned earlier that it’s something that has rarely happened, is a bit of application.
England, who face India in the final, have calmly gone through the motions without inflicting any scars on their opponents. They’ve been clinical but not destructive, victorious but not ruthless. And that’s what should keep India on their toes. England is like a cold, calculating super-villain, biding his time, looking for an opportunity to strike. And when they do, it’s slow, invisible and fatally effective.
Both teams are on the cusp of greatness, waiting to emerge from their cocoons of the past to build themselves on their own accord, to build monuments of their own, to create a whole history of their own. And right now, India seems to have the upper hand.