India have won all three matches in the group stages of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 © Getty Images
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
A young Indian side landed in England for the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 with little or no pressure of expectations. Free from any inhibitions, they have performed exceedingly well to win all their games in the league phase and have made it through to the next round. While there have been a few stand-out performers, it has largely been a team performance. The fielding, in particular, has been electric and a team that was once the worst on the park looks fit, agile and quick.
Let us have a look at the performance of each member of the eleven in the tournament so far. Such has been the consistency that India haven’t been forced to make any changes to their side.
Shikhar Dhawan: The star of the tournament so far, Shikhar Dhawan has been a revelation in this tournament. The hundred on Test debut at Mohali has transformed him as he is confident and fearless in his stroke-play. Facing three quality seam-bowling attacks against South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan, the Delhi southpaw has shown good footwork and positive intent. He has charged to them with aggression and came out on top. Two hundreds and an innings of 48 in consecutive innings is no mean feat, and India’s hopes lie on his shoulder as they move to the semi-finals.
Rohit Sharma: Has the once precocious talent finally arrived at the international stage? The enigmatic Rohit Sharma may have found his true calling in the opening role. During the series against England, he was given a promotion and he responded with a good knock in a crucial game. At the Champions Trophy, he has played with application and patience. His composed approach has been the perfect foil for Dhawan’s aggression. The most admirable aspect of his game has been the way he has handled the short-ball.
Virat Kohli: With the openers going strong, India’s mainstay hasn’t had much to do in this tournament. Virat Kohli got off to starts in the first two games, but couldn’t convert them into big scores. He has had to shoulder a lot of the pressure over the last two years due to India’s indifferent form and he hasn’t been challenged a lot here. However, he has looked in good touch and his footwork has been positive. There is an definite desire to perform and a big innings from Kohli may be round the corner.
Dinesh Karthik: The in-form Dinesh Karthik has celebrated his return to the Indian team with good performances that portends well for the future. The two hundreds in the warm-ups sealed his spot in the eleven as there were a few berths up for grabs. In the game against the West Indies, he played a cool hand as India completed a comfortable win. This tournament could prove to be the turning point of his fledging international career.
Suresh Raina: There was a lot of talk about Suresh Raina’s ability to play in English conditions — where the fast-bowlers may exploit his weakness against the rising delivery. With the top order going strong, Raina has had only one outing so far in the tournament and that isn’t enough to judge him. The last time India toured England, Raina had a decent ODI series and that should hold him in good stead.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni: Like Raina, MS Dhoni has had only one hit in the middle with the bat. In the lead-up to this tournament, there was a lot of focus on his silence on the spot-fixing controversy. Dhoni had the job of leading this young side in a big event, but has shielded them well from the distractions. Now, he has to inspire them to rise to occasion on a bigger stage.
Ravindra Jadeja: The most improved Indian cricketer this year — who has made his numerous critics eat their words. Today, Ravindra Jadeja is one of the most valuable assets to the Indian side and his performance at the Champions Trophy is another feather in his cap. In the opening encounter against South Africa, his quick cameo of 47 tipped the balance in favour of India. He wasn’t done there as he was brilliant in the field and nagging with the ball. The fifer against the West Indies was a game-changing one as it looked like the opposition was taking control after a quick start.
Ravichandran Ashwin: India’s frontline spinner has been eclipsed by Jadeja’s heroics. However, Ravichandran Ashwin has been consistent and disciplined. In tandem with Jadeja, he has kept a hold over proceedings in the middle overs. Jadeja may have done most of the wicket-taking, but Ashwin’s role has also been pivotal to India’s convincing passage through to the semi-finals.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The young swing bowler was earmarked for success at the Champions Trophy as the conditions in England aid his kind. After a tough start against South Africa, Bhuvneshwar Kumar bounced back with a decent spell against the West Indies. In rainy conditions at Edgbaston against Pakistan, he finished with figures of two for 19 in eight overs — a Man-of-the-Match performance. That outing would give him confidence ahead of the knock-out game.
Umesh Yadav: A tour of mixed fortunes so far for Umesh Yadav. The genuine wicket-taker can be expensive and that was evident in the first two games. He finished with more respectable figures against Pakistan, but was wicket-less.
Ishant Sharma: The lanky seamer is getting into his wicket-taking stride in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and his rebuilding his career. Ishant Sharma had fallen off the one-day radar for some time and is gradually working his way back. Ishant’s bowling can touch the two extremes — he can either trouble the batsmen with a few jaffas or bleed runs at a worrying rate. He certainly has to tighten the screws in the slog-overs so that India can reap rich rewards from his talent.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with cricketcountry.com and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)