The biggest shock and surprise of the ongoing Champions Trophy would be if Dhoni’s Indians do not win the coveted cup. Thursday’s semi-final that will see India facing Sri Lanka, should be a repeat of the 2011 World Cup final and for the men in blue, it should not matter whether they go up against England or South Africa on Sunday.
India’s overall performance in the Champions Trophy has made for a refreshing sight. While the fielding has gone up a notch or two, the aggression and confidence have given the side an edge that should cut through any opposition. So much so that even Tendulkar’s absence due to retirement is hardly felt. Further, without the likes of veterans Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan, the Indian team has been radiating youthful exuberance.
No surprises then that the selectors kept the Champions Trophy side for the tri-series in the Caribbean next month and I suspect, the core of the team that will do duty in the 2015 World Cup is coming together quite nicely. In fact, even if India were to lose any of the senior players over the next couple of years, it should not make much of a difference.
The most conspicuous and happy development has been the Rohit-Dhawan opening partnership that promises much in the coming seasons and even should go all the way to the next World Cup. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar continues to impress and if nursed meticulously, then he should soon emerge the spearhead of Indian bowling, especially in conditions that afford movement and bounce.
Even as we enjoy the resurgence of Indian team, the sore point has been Ishant Sharma who has been far too expensive and it is to be hoped that he will get back into groove sooner than later, for he is far too talented a bowler and young to be allowed to go on the slide.
While the Indian team has looked the best of the eight in the Champions Trophy, the tournament itself has failed to rise to any great heights and the weather doing its bit to dampen the proceedings. It is just as well that the ICC has decided to scrap the tournament that is quite redundant and irrelevant as it serves no purpose.
The Australian team has been the biggest letdown. It is obvious that the side suffers from lack of leadership and doses of indiscipline. The strangest part has been the presence of Clarke in the squad although he has been suffering from a recurring back ailment that as per his own admission has been plaguing him since his junior days!
So, if a player is unfit, then why select him at all? For all practical purposes, Clarke has been a tourist and it is moot whether he will be fully fit for the forthcoming Ashes series. Clarke’s replacement, Bailey, has been anything but outstanding. I am convinced that the current team is the worst ever Australia has sent overseas.
Australian cricket is only now feeling the impact of retirement of a bunch of players in the past few seasons and the young replacements are struggling to find their feet in the competitive international environment. I am convinced that it will take Australian cricket another few seasons to rise to the top.
The decline of Australian cricket has coincided with the rise of India under Dhoni who, despite the hat-trick of series defeats in the recent past, has bounced back with an energetic bunch of young cricketers.
While on the subject of Champions Trophy, India, for all their opposition to the UDRS, benefitted greatly from the reviews in each of their three league matches. For some strange reason, BCCI has been strident in its anti-UDRS stand on the pretext that the technology in use is not fool-proof. However, it is better than not having the review at all.
Two reviews in the match against Pakistan, one each against South Africa and the West Indies went in favour of India at very critical junctures and they did influence the results. It is downright silly to reject technology outright in this day and age. But then, it is so typical of the BCCI to bury its head in the sand and unfairly using its financial muscle to have its way.
Whatever, it is good to be talking cricket than the politics of it as we catch our collective breath from the recent shenanigans that I am sure will soon be forgotten and then quietly buried (until next time!) as Dhoni’s men travel the World, living in their little bubble.