Three bonuses for India from the Champions Trophy

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 12, 2013 06:26 hrs

​MS Dhoni and his men have been living up to their pre-tournament status as favourites and in keeping with their No 1 ICC ranking. Two successive victories have made India the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the Champions Trophy and the manner in which they are performing, they are clearly the team to beat for the title.
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The batting has come off, the bowling has done better than expected and the fielding and catching has improved by leaps and bounds. Ravichandran Ashwin leaping and holding on to a sharp edge from Chris Gayle against West Indies on Tuesday sums it all up.

Never really athletic on the field or while running between wickets, Ashwin seems to have found his place in the slip cordon where he could emerge with credit – which is just as well for the Indian team has been without specialist slip fielders following the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

Keeping the long term view in mind, it can be said that the bold and far-sighted approach of the Sandeep Patil led selection committee is already paying off. No Virender Sehwag, no Harbhajan Singh, no Zaheer Khan and they are not being missed.

Indeed the young squad has gelled together and if the focus continues to be on youth, this could form the nucleus of a team good enough to retain the World Cup two years from now.
What has lifted the confidence level and performance level of the current touring squad has been the form shown particularly by two players. While the others have more or less lived up to their reputation, Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja have enhanced it. These two are clearly special talents and should be persevered with even if they go through a run of failures.
From what one saw of his batting in his lone Test against Australia at Mohali earlier this year, it was clear that Dhawan’s batting was tailor made for limited overs cricket. But hardly anyone would have predicted back to back hundreds from the buccaneering left handed opening batsman.

Moreover he is in total command while at the crease, plays shots all round the wicket, is not afraid to loft the ball and plays the short pitched deliveries with aplomb. He is clearly a big match player and can be counted upon to come good in a crunch situation.

In his brief international career, Dhawan has impressed one and all with his impeccable technique and ideal temperament. In his 28th year Dhawan has made a late start but there is little doubt that he will make up for lost time.
When he first came up on the scene four years ago, Jadeja was thought to be a promising limited overs cricketer. He did hold out some potential as a utility player who could come up with the odd wicket or two besides getting 20 or 30 runs.

Over the years, despite sudden lapses in form, the progress was there for all to see and his robust batting late in the order and his accurate left arm spin bowling made him an ideal cricketer for ODIs and T-20s.

Then of course his match winning show in the Test series against Australia changed all that. Purely on performance he was able to edge out Pragyan Ojha and command a regular place in the Test side. First and foremost a bowler, he struck up a perfect combination with Ashwin.

And while he continues to bat with a great deal of freedom even in limited overs cricket, giving the necessary impetus to the scoring rate whenever required, it is as a bowler that he has a greater role to play.

His naggingly accurate stump to stump line makes it difficult for him to be put away for runs, let alone boundaries. The batsman who plays across to Jadeja pays the penalty as more than one West Indian batsman found out on Tuesday.
A third bonus has been the form shown by Rohit Sharma. The prodigiously gifted Mumbai batsman has come in for a barrage of criticism for not living up to his potential as one of the two best young batsmen in the country.

The other, Virat Kohli has gone miles ahead while Rohit, if not exactly a failure had the kind of figures that did not do his faultless technique and unflappable temperament justice.

It is to be hoped that the two successive half centuries against South Africa and the West Indies will help him to take off and finally be up there where he belongs. The most heartening aspect is that he has come off as an opening batsman though Rohit of course can also be a naturally attacking player in the middle order.

The performances of Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were always going to be watched with keen interest. Could the two young promising swing bowlers excel in helpful conditions was the question and it is gratifying to note that they have made most of it.
All in all a most encouraging start by the Indians and it would be a major surprise if they falter in the matches ahead.

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