Cricket: Has India found the right ODI combination?

With the ICC Champions Trophy coming of age, it appears only fitting that the final edition belonged to the No. 1 team – India. However, one finds it ironical that the tournament, underway for the last time, was played among ‘new’ teams opulently laden with youth and inexperience. While Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka found it difficult to exorcise the demons of naivety, India went trudging by, converting talent and hard work into results.

A renaissance was the need of the hour on the back of scandals and controversies, coupled with horrific overseas tours that ripped through Indian cricket and reduced it to shreds. It was high time to scrap the lousy fielders and casual batsmen whose egos had turned them into liabilities. Everyone knew it, yet none was keen to face the aftermath of dropping big names from the squad.

The man who took this million-dollar responsibility was the same man who had displayed the valor of promoting himself up the order and had taken the responsibility of bringing the World Cup home. The Indian skipper rose more than a few eyebrows when he sanctioned a complete overhaul in the squad and took a young and unrefined bunch of talent to conquer the swinging English conditions. Back now, after a complete whitewash of other teams in England, Dhoni is being eulogized for his bravado and compared with Sourav Ganguly (yet again) for the best Indian captain’s throne.

England v India: Final - ICC Champions Trophy

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is well known as a fearless and uncompromising leader, but his decision of ostracizing seniors from the team was looked upon with contempt. To the keenest cynics of Indian cricket, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma would never match the guile and authority of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir; the pace battery would never charge without Zaheer Khan; the middle order would never look ominous without Yuvraj Singh. Perhaps that is all true, but one has to look at the bigger picture and prepare the team for the next couple of years to ensure all the efforts culminate into a successful 2015 World Cup.

This team lacks the recognition and fan following of its predecessor, and teams around the world are least likely to get influenced by the squad on paper. But one must know better than being fooled by their non-charismatic demeanor. This is a team that echoes the uncompromising attitude of their leader. They are ruthless, fearless and hungry for victory. Inexperience motivates them and intent provides them with the zeal to accomplish their ambitions. Oozing with confidence, they prowl the field like merciless tigers and believe in themselves to bounce back from any quandary, no matter however bad it may be.

“It’s not the end till it’s the end.”

Going into the 18th over of the Champions Trophy final, an out-of-the-sorts Ishant Sharma leaked runs as if to aid England towards a much probable victory. Just as the average Indian fan, not unfamiliar to such situations, was about to reach the television remote, Sharma executed what the Indians had seldom done all these years. At that moment when every rational cynic had doubted him, Sharma had trusted his own abilities to create the magic which ultimately propelled India to a magnificent victory.

Unlike previous Indian sides that could boast of individual brilliance and personal milestones, Dhoni’s boys have only one thing at their disposal – teamwork. While Ravindra Jadeja still has to travel long distances before matching a Yuvraj Singh, one cannot but resist marveling at the way the young players have shaped themselves. It is of little doubt that Dhoni has squeezed maximum benefits from his resources, each of whom has flourished in the roles assigned to him. Reaping profits from cautious investments is a crafty trade and the cool-headed Indian skipper has mastered it. He has managed his boys incredibly well and has carved the best out of his team in an astounding fashion.

Shikhar Dhawan is blossoming as a dependable opener and has begun to value his wicket like never before. Rohit Sharma seems to have found his form and one only hopes he will not promise to deceive once again. Virat Kohli is burgeoning into a force to reckon with while Suresh Raina appears to have settled his spot in world cricket. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav are doing fine, playing second fiddle to Bhuvneshwar Kumar who’s bringing back the traditional feel of swinging the ball. In the spin department, Ravichandran Ashwin continues to bemuse world class batsmen with his accuracy and courage of flighting the ball.

The most amazing transformation under Dhoni, however, has got to be a man named Ravindra Jadeja. From being a liability-in-the-mold-of-a-cricketer suffering regular trolls on social networking sites, Jadeja has altered himself into a fine all-rounder and a reliable second spin option alongside Ashwin. Dhoni’s persistence even after repeated failures was much criticized and Indians, at times, were almost on the verge of questioning his credibility towards the team. However, before it was too late, Jadeja ultimately did justice to his captain’s trust by revolutionizing himself from an embarrassing liability to a deserving player. The much-maligned Gujarati silenced his critics by emerging as the highest wicket-taker in the Champions Trophy and grabbing the Man of the Match Award in the grand finale of the tournament.

India v West Indies: Group B - ICC Champions Trophy

With so much agility, precision, talent and intent in the team, Dhoni’s boys may well be on the route to scripting their own history. This is a team that banks on team effort where one can be blindly trusted to step up when the other fails. It’s not individual flair; it’s the appropriateness in combination that this team thrives upon. Such is the amalgamation of skills that the weaknesses of one are being overshadowed by the other’s strengths and all this has resulted into unbelievable triumphs against fancied sides.

With even Michael Vaughan vouching for the new crop of Indian players, it’s now up to Dhoni’s Men in Blue to justify their claim as the dominants in world cricket.

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