Team India has thrown up a lot of surprises in the ICC Champions Trophy being played in England.
A look at some of them…
1. Fielding: India have won tournaments and have been the best batting and bowling units. But to emerge as the best fielding side one is not something that happens regularly. The contrast was the India-South Africa match where the Indians were electric on the field and the generally brilliant South Africans looked downright clueless.
It’s not an occasional sharp catch, but fielding consistency throughout all the matches. One doesn’t remember the Indian fielding ever being this good. In just 3 matches, more than half the team have taken at least one catch.
Even for dismissals by wicket-keepers, captain MS Dhoni is on top of the table.
2. Consistency: The first two warm-up matches were just a formality. But still India chased 334 in the first and recovered from 55-5 to post 308 in the second. Then they annihilated Australia: 65 all down.
Usually at such times India would falter when the real games would begin. That didn’t happen. India won their first two matches so comfortably, that even a largish defeat in the third match would still see them at the top of the table.
The Indo-Pak encounter was a dud match and yet there was no drama. India thrashed Pak to get them all down 165 and then chased the small target with ease despite the many rain stoppages and target revisions.
In chronological order, India won by 5 wickets, 243 runs, 26 runs, 8 wickets and 8 wickets. No really close matches. This is very much like the consistency shown by the Australian team at its peak.
3. Short ball play: It’s an absolute joy to watch Indian pacers throw down short balls to discomfort the opposition batsmen and the vice versa not happening. The Indian batsmen, led by opening batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have seen on the short ball without much fuss.
4. English conditions: India got annihilated in England in 2011. Some commentators thought that we would really struggle this time too, that too without so many seniors. But despite the rain and cold and the not so sunny conditions of the Indian sub-continent, the Indians have looked totally at home while batting, bowling and fielding.
5. Rohit Sharma: To many, the very fact that Rohit is still playing is a surprise. But the surprise of this tournament was to see him come as an opener. One must say that he has risen up to the challenge. In the 3 official matches, India has had two century partnerships and one fifty. That’s about as consistent as you can get.
6. Sir Jadeja: After his false start in the T20 World Cups, Jadeja has been surprising us with his performances in different formats of the game. First as an IPL rock star, then as an ODI all-rounder, then as a first class triple triple centurion and finally as a Test bowler on the subcontinent.
Now, after the Indo-Pak match, he has emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. And this is England! It’s not just about wickets, but his economy rate has been 3.59 and his bowling has mostly proved to be a turning point in the games.
He has also batted well, and his fielding has been spot-on.
7. Rotating talent: The old guard is slowly going away and the youngsters are consistently doing better. A new guard gave us our first ever 4-0 in Tests. Now also, we came into the tournament without the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. That hasn’t made the least of difference. Even Virat Kohli has been overshadowed.
Shikhar Dhawan is the leading run-scorer of the tournament. In the space of three innings, Dhawan has scored a Test century on Indian soil and 2 centuries in England. That’s quite promising.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has played just 11 ODIs and picked up 14 wickets. While that is a decent start, what is really outstanding is his economy rate of 4.27. That shows that batsmen have difficulty in scoring off him. Now that’s a good long-term prospect.
In fact the only consistent in Indian cricket in the last 6 years has been Dhoni’s captaincy!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/