The recently concluded Celkon tri-nation series may have been a short tournament but it had more twists and turns than an Alfred Hithcock thriller.
There is something about the Caribbean that produces riveting ODIs. Hosts, West Indies were within touching distance of qualifying for the final only to crash out of the tournament. The Calypso Kings played like millionaires but their reckless dash cost them dearly in the end.
As always, spirited Sri Lanka carried forward the fight, winning many hearts but lacked the killer instinct when it really mattered. World Cup Champions and Champions Trophy holders, India, thanks to Iceman Dhoni snatched the title from the jaws of defeat in the dying moments of the match.
With the tri-series success quickly following the heels of their Champions Trophy glory, Team India has firmly parked themselves at the top of the ODI rankings table, a comfortable eight points clear of the second-placed Aussies.
Here’s a look at India’s biggest gains from the Tri-nation tournament:
Rohit Sharma- from languid to laborious
A year ago, Rohit Sharma limped to a paltry 13 runs in Sri Lanka- the worst return by a specialist Indian batsman in a bilateral series. The chorus for his axing grew louder and louder. Experts mused that Sharma’s powers are just confined to the IPL. Yet, Mahendra Singh Dhoni patiently persisted with him.
Cut to July 11, 2013, a beaming Rohit Sharma received the ‘Most Trusted performer award’ for his consistency. Dhoni’s experiment of opening with Rohit has turned out to be masterstroke with the Mumbai batsman putting a heavy price on his wicket.
After two straight losses in the series, Sharma helped India set up an ideal opening partnership of 123 before Virat Kohli assumed centre-stage. In the following rain-ruined must win clash, he compiled a crucial 48 on a treacherous Trinidad pitch to give the bowlers enough runs to play with. It was only fitting that he capped the tournament with a steady fifty in a tense final.
Virat Kohli- the future captain
In his maiden stint as full-time India skipper, young Virat led India to the tri-nation series final from the brink of elimination.
He had a nightmarish start with Sri Lanka dishing out a 161-run hiding. He admitted India missed the equanimity of Dhoni but Kohli turned the ship around with two consecutive wins, including scoring a dazzling ton to extricate his team from the brink of elimination. In addition to marshaling his troops astutely, Kohli kept the opposition on the backfoot by deploying attacking fields.
If early signs are anything to go by, India have unearthed a worthy successor to Dhoni.
Dhoni- the cricketing Buddha
Whilst the entire world was awestruck by the heroics of teenage sensation Ashton Agar in the first Ashes test, it was just another day at the office for Captain Cool.
Feet heavy as if strapped with iron. Sweaty palms. A million butterflies in the tummy. Trouser-soiling fear. Fifteen runs to win off the final over for the Celkon Mobile Trophy. Pressure is no factor for Dhoni though.
Returning from injury, he steered India home with two balls to spare. The cricketing Buddha triumphed over chaos and cacophony yet again. No prizes for guessing, the Jharkhand Jadoogar sealed the title with a six to revoke memories of the 2011 World Cup glory.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar- the Swing King
India’s drought for a genuine frontline swing bowler has finally ended. Bhuvneshwar Kumar may be just 17 ODI’s old but his mastery of swing and seam has drawn comparisons with the likes of James Anderson.
Whenever the captain tossed the new ball over to Bhuvi, he delivered early breakthroughs. Kumar’s upright wrist position catalyzes his ability to nip the ball in the air, undoing the best in the business. Even the hall of fame pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara struggled against India’s swing king.
Continuing his rich form from Champions Trophy, the 23-year-old bowler snared 10 wickets in the tri-nation tournament.