By Derek Abraham
Eleven months, four continents, six ODI trophies — can it get any better? Guess what? It can. How about beating South Africa in their own backyard? India could realise that dream in a fortnight’s time. By pummeling the West Indies in Kanpur on Wednesday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co didn’t just pocket the series 2-1. For the umpteenth time this year, they posed this question to you and me: Isn’t this the best ODI side to have represented the country? Greater than ‘Kapil’s Devils’ (1983), ‘Sunny’s Stars’ (1985), ‘Dada’s Gang’ (2003) and even the ‘Class of 2011’. Are ‘Dhoni’s Dudes’ (2013) right up there?
Fathom this: they started the year with a 3-2 triumph over England. In June, they lifted the ICC Champions Trophy — a tougher assignment than the World Cup because of the absence of minnows — without losing a game before crossing the Atlantic and winning a tri-series involving the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the Caribbean. Forty winks later, they were in Zimbabwe — Dhoni and a few others sat out, but that’s besides the point — to hand the hosts a 5-0 hammering. Back home, they beat the Aussies 3-2 before rounding off the home season with a straightforward win on Wednesday.
Most old-timers consider the World Championship of Cricket-winning side of 1985 better than the one which put India on the cricket map in 1983. The reasons are aplenty. One, they won in Australia, which is the most challenging of tours. Two, they won five out of five matches. Three, they picked up 49 of the 50 wickets there were on offer. Also, the team was packed with world-class all-rounders and there was no tail as such. Even No. 11 Laxman Sivaramakrishnan had a first-class century to his name.
Sourav Ganguly’s team, which reached the final of the 2003 World Cup, was considered the best for several years before Dhoni lifted the World Cup in 2011. Now that was a ‘Dream Team’. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir at the top; Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina in the middle and Dhoni to guide the rest. It was a batting colossus. The journey, which culminated at the Wankhede on the night of April 2, 2011, had started with that famous victory in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank tri-series final in Australia.
But just like the period between 1983 and 1985 saw India suffer many series defeats, the stretch from 2011 to 2013 was forgettable. India lost in England, failed to qualify for the tri-series Down Under, lost to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and even suffered at the hands of Pakistan at home.
And then came Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli and Rohit Sharma 2.0. There’s been no looking back since. South Africa is the only country where India haven’t won an ODI series. Time to conquer the final frontier, then?
A few statistical highlights
6 — The win against West Indies is India’s sixth successive ODI series triumph this year.
21 — Number of ODIs India have won in 2013 out of the total 30 played, with eight losses and one no-result.
5 — Number of centuries Shikhar Dhawan has scored this year, the most so far. He leads Virat Kohli, who has scored four.
(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)
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