Its been thirteen years since match fixing reared its ugly head in Indian cricket. And like a recurring bad dream it has stuck again - it has taken its time but it is here for good, affecting the Indian Premier League, and its BCCI masters.
The similarities with the previous episode is unerring. Just like this year, the men in blue embarked upon a Champions' trophy tournament with questions aplenty, a young team and a popular captain. Sourav Ganguly's men in 2000 at South Africa gave the answer on the field, and on the back of an incredible run to the final transformed the mood back home, and restored faith.
This year Dhoni's men, packed with young talents waiting to be fulfilled, are on the same quest, to lift the gloom at home after a sickening spot fixing scandal in the IPL.
The world champions of 2011 have reached the shores of England with a somewhat changed side from their title winning pursuits of two years back. The win was fashioned on the back of spin on familiar low and slow pitches of the sub continent. In England, the technique of the batsmen will be tested by pace and swing, by bouncers into the body, and the new ODI rule, a test for the astute captain and for the inexperienced bowling line up.
The first warm up game against Sri Lanka was uplifting - for the captain, and the batsmen, but the bowlers could make no impression on the Sri Lankan batting line up which is adequate without being threatening.
What Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik's exploits achieved was to provide a pleasant headache for the team management as far as team selection is concerned, the latter's ton and his previous record in these conditions warrant a starting role for the keeper batsman, if at all as a batsman only, but it also helped gloss over a poor bowling performance, and a shaky start to the run chase.
If India are to succed, their bowling has to click, and in the English conditions in the early part of the season it has to be the seamers who step up. The line up is rich with potential - Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's swing, Umesh Yadav's pace and Ishant Sharma's bounce can be a threat, if well directed and sustained, but what will really make an impact and gladden hearts is if Irfan Pathan can get his swing in to the right handers back. In the field, the Indian teams under Dhoni have been sprightly and quick - this should not change, especially if the bowlers are finding it tough.
India's strength is its batting - Virat will hope to continue his good start and maintain his form throughout the tournament and Dhoni will look to play his trademark end of the innings blockbusters, but it is the start given by the new opening partnership of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan that will determine success for the line up.
If Karthik opens, one of the two will make way, which should be a good thing for the tournament. However, Karthik may also be chosen to play the kind of innings he played in the warm up game, down the order, just before Dhoni comes out all guns blazing, to provide the innings experience and stability.
If the team clicks, it can be an irresistible force in the short tournament and can go all the way and win it which will be just the uplift the millions in India are craving for.
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