Before the Champions Trophy began, the focus of the worldwide media, with respect to Indian cricket, was solely on the fixing scam engulfing the Indian Premier League.
The Indian team, with lots of new players and deprived of leading stars apart from M.S. Dhoni, were seen as rank outsiders to win the Champions Trophy.
Despite being the number one team in the world, not many thought they could claim the trophy.
So, what went right for India?
Here, we have a look at six factors that made India click as a unit.
1) Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma’s opening combination
Shikhar Dhawan announced himself a few months ago on the international scene with a breathtaking debut century against Australia, and followed it up with back-to-back hundreds against South Africa and the West Indies in the Champions Trophy.
His partner, Rohit Sharma, also made respectable fifties in these two matches, getting India off to solid starts in both games.
In fact, these two were so strong that the middle order hardly got a bat ! Not surprisingly, both ended in the top five in the runs’ charts, with Dhawan securing the Golden Bat.
2) 'Sir' Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja has, in recent times, become nothing short of a phenomenon. Branded as Sir by captain M.S. Dhoni, the previously much-maligned good-for-nothing tweaker has now firmly established himself as the all-rounder in India’s setup, a position where India has been long lamenting a lack of good options. Originally a batsman, his left-breaks have now become so consistently good that he ended the Champions Trophy as the leading wicket taker, and he is looked upon as a strike bowler now, not as a fifth choice bowler looking to inconspicuously squeeze out his overs to minimise damage.
And his contributions with the bat, especially in the final against England, have been a crucial contributing cause for his successful transition into a genuine all rounder.
3) Dinesh Karthik’s entry into the side
The warm up matches were meant to be meaningless for most people, however, after a good IPL, it provided the perfect opportunity for Dinesh Karthik to force his way into the side.
And he did not disappoint, scoring two-match winning hundreds in the process to pip Murali Vijay and steal a place in the middle order.
While his contribution in the Champions Trophy was respectable but not huge (he made one fifty against the West Indies and stood out as a fielder), his inclusion sent the right noises from the Indian Think Tank, who finally got some positive attention for choosing form(Karthik) over reputation(Vijay).
It also provided a welcome distraction from the umpteenth IPL-fixing-related story the team was preparing to face.
4) Improvement in fielding
The Indian cricket team’s fielding was so brilliant, that one could be forgiven for mistaking this outfit to be the Jonty-Rhodes inspired South African fielding unit of the late 1990’s.
Not only did youngsters like Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Karthik, and Jadeja establish themselves in the batting order, they also complemented the likes of Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli brilliantly in the field to form a formidable fielding unit. M.S. Dhoni, who had complained about giving the opposition team a 20 runs’ head-start in the CB series in Australia (January 2012), was visibly delighted with this unit, calling it the best fielding unit in the world.
And they proved that too, with great catching, saving several runs, affecting important run outs (especially against South Africa), and most importantly, showing a maniacal intensity in the field, which can put off the bravest of batsmen.
5) M.S. Dhoni’s captaincy
The man with the lucky charm struck again, and how! Just when the nation was about to go after him after his surprising decision to give the ball to Ishant Sharma for the 18th over of England’s innings seemed to be backfiring, Sharma struck gold, changing the outcome of the match in just two balls. A captain who relies on his gut instinct and a natural understanding of the game, even his harshest critics can’t deny the fact that he has a sharp brain, at-least in ODI cricket.
Not everyone can win the Champions League, The World T20, as well as The World Cup after all, especially with ever-changing and not-quite-world-class squads.
6) Presence of dynamic youngsters
The presence of too many youngsters and not-yet-established players was what was supposed to bring India’s downfall in the Champions Trophy. Instead, they brought dynamism, flair, and a newfound intensity that the Indian Camp hasn’t experienced in recent times.
Who can forget Dhawan and Jadeja showing off their impeccable moustaches at any opportunistic time? Or, as already mentioned, the intensity shown on the field by this young lot ?
Clearly a lack of ego’s in the dressing room helped build team morale to no end, and was a vital factor in the togetherness of the team. M.S. Dhoni too clearly enjoyed captaining this lot, and he allowed the youngsters to lift the trophy before he did.
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