Off-field controversies — Team India’s tried and tested winning mantra
MS Dhoni and co. have clearly shut their minds off from all the ruckus going on outside the stadiums © Getty Images
By R Vishal
India cruised to a win against Bangladesh and with that became the first team in the ICC World T20 2014 to enter the last four of the competition, far away from the big murky world of the spot-fixing saga that continues to supersede Team India’s resurgence.
When the diabolical Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing allegations first came out in the summer of 2013, commentators of the game labeled the disgraceful episode in which some of the administrative honchos were directly and indirectly involved as the biggest low-blow to Indian cricket since their astronomical rise as powerhouses on and off the pitch.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was promptly chastised for his proximity to the outgoing Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chairman N Srinivasan but what followed, placed the faith in the hopeful fans’ hearts all over again.
Full coverage of Supreme Court hearing on IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal
India played outstanding cricket throughout the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 which was punctuated with some thrilling displays from a young team, still in a rebuilding phase to go on and win the tournament on English soil.
India followed the win with a creditable display against Australia before crash-landing and having their wings broken into smithereens during the South Africa and New Zealand tours. With the Supreme Court grabbing hundreds of headlines in opinion pieces in dailies across the country, India have quietly gone about with their business and cruised to three wins out of three in the ongoing tournament.
As it was in England with the Champions Trophy and the ongoing T20 World Cup, a relaxed air is prevalent in the camp despite Dhoni being under mounting pressure while facing the barrage of questions about his involvement in off-field matters alongside Srinivasan and his ‘cricket enthusiast’ son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan.
In his seventh year as India skipper now, it should be recalled that it was the unheralded, underdog spirit that kick-started two the finest wins that he fashioned early on his career — the ICC World T20 2007 and the VB Series of 2008, trumping vastly experienced Sri Lanka and Australia. The former laid the cornerstone for the formation of the IPL itself the next year; just months after India suffered the ignominy of a group-stage exit in ICC World Cup 2007.
The ICC World Cup 2011 win was nothing less than an acid test of Everest proportions placed or rather demanded squarely but yet again, Dhoni’s inspired men handled pressure of a billion expectations where nothing less would have sufficed with aplomb to bring the biggest outpour of national euphoria in the country in the 21st century.
Dhoni’s predecessors too have shown this kind of in-the-zone confidence in the past, remaining oblivious to matters outside the pitch on the biggest of stages. Sourav Ganguly’s men shrugged off all the stone-pelting after suffering a hammering against Australia in the group stages to brush aside teams to go all the way to the final in 2003.
Anil Kumble was also successful in making heads turn from off to on the field, rallying his bemused troops to win the fortress of great Australian teams in the past that is WACA, Perth after the farce of the Sydney Test which was talked about a certain racism episode as much as the ridiculous umpiring that was witnessed in the match.
Non-cricketing issues have disintegrated better men and teams in the past. Hansie Cronje’s match-fixing scandal in South Africa threw South Africa in the doldrums and took many years to make the Proteas the team to beat with battle-hungry Graeme Smith at the helm of affairs.
Opinions and personnel were divided in the Australia and West Indies camps too in recent times while England continue to search for answers and wins after the inexplicable decision to sack Kevin Pietersen. The sub-continent teams, Pakistan and Sri Lanka though continue to find salvation despite finding themselves knee-deep in controversies or being at loggerheads with the selection committee, as it has been in Sri Lanka’s case in the recent past.
India, however continue to rule the roost and remain pioneers of scripting fairytales from troubled waters elsewhere. It is not just the pressure because captaining or playing for the Men in Blue is the summit of it all. While this phenomena of rising above adversity remains an unsolved mystery, no one would bet against India to go all the way and win the World T20 for a second time.
ICC World T20 2014 Points Table and Team Standings
ICC World T20 2014 Schedule details
(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian School of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)