Indian players celebrate after winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 © Getty Images
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The flamboyance and flair of the Indian youth has taken the cricketing world by storm. Rarely have we seen an Indian side dominate a One-Day International (ODI) tournament in such convincing fashion as they have at the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Not many would have given this young unit a chance when they landed in England, but they have proven everyone wrong with their zest, energy and a fearless approach to the game.
It is quite ironic that captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the oldest member of the side. The man who once represented the youth of India and their undying desire to leave a mark on the world is now the senior statesman. The graying beard adds to his stature as the senior pro and leader continues to guide and channelise the exuberance of youth. While his fearlessness rubbed off on the team when he took over in 2007, today he is the calming influence who gives it a positive direction.
A new generation of players has taken on its leader’s innate characteristics. Even in the toughest situations during the Champions Trophy, their body language was positive and they didn’t let the pressure get to them. Take the example of the all-important final against England. With Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara going strong, the game was fast slipping from India’s grasp. But one didn’t see the shoulders drop or the heads down as the young Indian team was still up for the fight. As it turned out, Ishant Sharma changed the fortunes for his side by dismissing both the game-changers in back-to-back deliveries when it looked like they have taken home the advantage.
The most striking feature of this Indian team’s performance has been its fielding. Never have we seen an Indian team so fit, agile and electric on the field of play. India have had a few good fielders here and there, but were never a great unit. Things are different now as you have Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan in the eleven. The presence of such athletic and electric fielders only goes on to lift the morale of the side. A few spectacular stops in the field automatically boost the team’s confidence and bloods in optimism.
The general body language has been energetic and has exuded confidence. Dhawan is someone who has best personified that trait. Replacing the players of the stature of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, Dhawan brushed aside the pressure and expressed himself in full flow. The twirling moustache only added to his swagger as his batting did all the talking. He was charging to the fast-bowlers, making room on many occasions to work his way to an impressive performance. But, what has touched hearts is his act of dedicating his award to the flood victims of Uttarakhand. It showed a softer and human side of a man who is aggression personified at the batting crease
Kohli, the mainstay of this Indian batting, didn’t have much to do as the openers stole the show. However, he rose to the occasion when it mattered and showed great maturity. Through India’s tough ride over the last two years, he represented hope for a better future. He has always been expressive and positive. Now, he has a bunch of young and exciting cricketers around him to share the burden and pump in life into Indian cricket. Kohli has unmistakably matured, but has still retained a boyish enthusiasm — something that was evident in his celebrations after the victory.
Jadeja’s growth as a player has been stunning as his critics have eaten humble pie. Not only has he finished with the most wickets in the tournament, but his vital cameos propelled India to better scores when they were in tricky situations. Ravichandran Ashwin continued to impress with his off-spin and held things tight in the middle. However, his slip-fielding also caught the eye as he took a few magnificent catches there. Not known for his athleticism on the field, Ashwin made up for it with good reflexes as he helped the fast-bowlers complete the job at hand.
As a unit, this Indian team is unafraid to express itself. They are up for any challenge or even verbal duels on the field. At times, it may cross the line, but it can also put the opposition on the back foot. For the first time, one saw Dhoni jump in joy as his side clinched a win. Normally, his celebrations are more sedate as his monk like temperament helps him maintain his composure. It almost looked as if he had a point to prove when he leapt in the air in happiness. The others then took it to the next level by dancing around with the trophy. Kohli would have made his Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Chris Gayle proud with his Gangnam moves.
Through all that, Duncan Fletcher has very quietly vindicated himself. His role shouldn’t be forgotten as he has been with this team through two difficult years. He hasn’t spoken too much and one doesn’t expect him to say something even after this. Personally, it was a bitter-sweet moment as he lost his mother during the tournament. Yet, he was there with the team for the crucial games. That is proof of his commitment to this team and its cause.
To sum up, India have rejuvenated themselves with their youth that eyes victory in any situation. They have built this unit at the ideal time as the World Cup is two years away. Being their first tournament together, they have done well to clinch it and it is imperative that they continue to show consistency. If they maintain their high standards, India would be the team to watch out for come the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)