Friday, June 28, 2013

Champions Trophy 2013 - Well Done MSD, Team India and Selectors

My cricket watching has gone down a bit because international cricket in recent times has not kept me interested for too long. Perhaps it's a case of overexposure.

But I saw the final of the Champions Trophy 2013 and bits and pieces of some other games. I liked much about this new look Indian team - for starters - the new look. The Indian selectors led by the clear thinking Sandeep Patil, with his team of Roger Binny, Vikram Rathore, Saba Karim and Rajinder Singh Hans, are all hardworking, behind the scenes cricketers who will do an honest day's work.  They must be complimented on taking some fine decisions and sticking with form and commitment shown by the second rung players and not just sticking to old and sentimental favorites.

1) Shikhar Dhawan has been brilliant ever since he stormed on to the scene. As he repeatedly says he has used the domestic seasons to learn and grow, to sort himself out and now he knows his game inside out (literally). Players who are fully ready, who come after piling on runs for seasons upon seasons, who face rejection, the touch knocks of life are bound to value their time, their place in the middle. You can be sure he will be around for a while - he knows how difficult it was to get where he is now. I liked the way he told Nasser Hussain in the post match presentation that he dreamt he would be the Man of the Tournament. We need such passion, such newness, ambition. Full marks there to the selectors. Sehwag and Gambhir now know there is some self-analysis, some training to be done which is a good thing.

2) Playing Rohit Sharma as an opener was a brilliant move. Murali Vijay has has a woeful domestic season but he came into his own in the Tests against Australia. But in the shorter versions his form has been erratic. But batsman to batsman, Rohit is streets ahead in terms of talent and value to this team, and with his new found responsibility as captain of the Mumbai Indians, a stint that has done him a world of good, I finally see his career settling down. It is a delicious prospect to see batsmen of his calibre playing with responsibility (just as it is equally distressing to see them play irresponsibly, something which he has been guilty of, though unconsciously, for most of his career). To promote him to open was a wise and bold move and it paid dividends. Batsmen of such calibre can play at any position.

3) Virat Kohli cannot be kept out of any of the Indian sides because he brings not merely a huge sense of combativeness, an overwhelming desire to win and backs it with responsible and match winning knocks and performances in the field. And once again in the final he showed what a mature head he carries on his young shoulders as he garnered some crucial runs with Jadeja which ultimately proved to be the marginal difference.

4) Suresh Raina was a huge component in the World Cup 2011 and he still remains exactly that with his brand of aggressive fielding, batting and irrepressible exuberance on the field. He is a sobering effect, a positive influence and a dangerous batsman who can bowl a few overs. He is the silent force behind Dhoni and delivers in every way he can.

5) Dinesh Karthik was another good choice, he got a just reward for his batting performances in the domestic circuit, and he delivered in England when it mattered. He is a professional too and someone who like Shikhar Dhawan, understands the value of his place in the team. Bold move by the selectors to pick him as a batsman and one that DK justified fully.

6) MSD at 6. No praise can be less for this man. His tremendous leadership skills, clarity of thought, focus and vision, rootedness to the moment have once again pulled off the impossible for India. I have never seen anything like this man and I was amazed when I heard stories of how people wanted him out. Where can you get such leaders? I firmly believe that the leader makes the critical difference and when one has such exceptional talent, one should nurture it, not throw it away. MSD should take up leadership roles in society at a later stage in his career, especially at a time when India seems to have such a dearth of leaders. the young man has absorbed so much pressure in the past few years and kept it off his team really that it is shocking and somehow saddening to see how the carefree, longlocked young man who charmed President Musharraf even, has greyed and aged. But the true champion he is, MSD smiles it away, takes it in his stride and says, tomorrow is a new day. I loved the way he clapped his hands and encouraged a nervous Ishant after the tall bowler bowled two wides following a six by Morgan - and Ishant found the courage to bowl a slower one that dismissed Morgan, and then a shortish ball that got rid of Bopara. I loved the way he handled the post match interview with his feet firmly on the ground, the way he received the trophy, thrust it into Shikhar Dhawan's hand and walked off behind the scenes. My vote for MSD any day. What a man!

7) Ravindra Jadeja is a terrific talent and brings exceptional value in all three departments. He seems to have found the confidence of his captain, his team and himself and he can put the demons of yesteryears behind him. One can be sure that under the mentorship of Dhoni he will surely keep all distractions and temptations away and focus on his game and do well for India. His performance throughout the tournament, more so those crucial runs in the final, gave India the momentum.

8) Ashwin brings a mature head, a combative attitude and skill with both bat and ball that can turn matches. He is someone who will be around for a while too, someone who knows himself, his game, who is used to winning and who has seen the ways of his skipper closely. He is a balanced sort of a person and you know he will never go way off the mark even on his off day and that he is the kind who can be trusted to bowl the last over without losing his head.

9) Bhuvaneshwar Kumar carries much courage and skill, a heart of a soldier and the cunning of a fox, within that slim frame and unassuming manner. When he scored a hundred with the last man and secured an unlikely win for Central Zone against North Zone he showed what he is made of. And when he started swinging the ball both ways and knocking openers out even on flat wickets, he gave the Indian bowling teeth that look much sharper than ever. A silent operator who is worth his value in gold, another one who knows his game and is on top of his skill, someone who came out of the process, Bhuvaneshwar gets my vote any day with the new ball in all three versions of the game.

10) Ishant Sharma was another bold pick by the selectors and he fully justified his inclusion with two match winning performances. The rather erratic spell in the final however was the turning point of the game but more than that, it was heartening to  see his deliveries thud into the wicketkeepers gloves in the games he got his rhythm. He loves his wins too and it was a sight to see the lanky bowler jump all over his skipper when they won the game. They seemed to have had some private premonition about the game - good for them.

11) Umesh Yadav is certainly the man to back with the new ball as he is the quickest bowler we have and has the uncanny ability to pick up wickets or bowl overs that push opposition teams into uncomfortable positions. He is strong and as long as he is fit, he can make any batsman in the world hurry through with his expert pace. He can knock over a few wickets any time in the best of team and for that one quality, he needs to be in the team.

Well done everybody. To me it is a clear case of how the best prepared players got the opportunity, how players with the most desire to play and perform for their team and country made the crucial difference and how a good, well-thought-of team combination left no gaps for anyone to exploit. And when you give such a team to an able leader, you cannot keep it from winning.

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