Champions Trophy | India shining3 min read . Updated: 19 Jun 2013, 07:55 PM IST
There has been a great deal to savour from this year's Champions Trophy
It’s been such an entertaining and eventful Champions Trophy till now that the International Cricket Council (ICC) might well decide not to scrap the tournament (on till 23 June), as has been widely speculated.
Everybody knows the One Day International (ODI) format is under duress in these hard times where every eyeball is worth its weight in gold, and this gold is migrating rapidly to Twenty20. But as an ICC official told me in the hushed whisper that officials imagine means serious business, “Let’s wait and see how this evolves from here."
Though off the record, this was still profound stuff. Essentially what this means is whether sponsors will bite the bait again; or perhaps more pertinently, that The Board of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) won’t play tough. So we’ll wait and see. But till such time there’s been a great deal to savour from this year’s tournament.
Three things have stood out for me so far: A key Australian player was suspended for assaulting a rookie English player, a former England captain has alleged that his country’s players are guilty of ball-tampering, and India emerged as the most lauded, most feared team in the tournament.
There has been widespread concern recently over David Warner’s inflammable temper. Not too long back, he was fined and cautioned by Cricket Australia for tweeting true-blue Aussie profanities against a journalist and here he was, into fisticuffs against the reedy and (allegedly) hapless Joe Root after the match between the two countries.
While his own failure and that of Australia against England would obviously have been contributing factors, it is also being aggressively discussed whether Warner lost his sense of balance and civility because of the early success he has had in international cricket, and even more because of the easy, big money earned in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Money and fame can be a deadly combo to make a 26-year-old feel all mighty, but why blame the IPL for his poor mentoring? Hopefully the action taken against Warner will bring him down a few pegs (pun unintended); and hopefully Root will look for better company at 2am.
As it happened, Australia failed to make it to the semi-finals—in small measure because of Warner’s absence, but rather more because they were a mediocre side. Perhaps that is being charitable; there was no poorer team in the tournament and unless there is a dramatic turnaround, the Ashes looks doomed.
Meanwhile England, after a major stumble against Sri Lanka, made it into the last four but accompanied by unexpected controversy from an unusual quarter: former captain Bob Willis alleged the English players were tampering with the ball to get swing for James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan.
Now swing, or the absence of it, has been among the major talking points of this tournament. The fact that even England’s bowlers have struggled has been unusual, but what provoked Willis’ outburst was that in the match against Sri Lanka the umpires were forced to change the ball.
Willis alleged that this was because the ball had been worked upon. He also said that one player (he didn’t name him) was specifically assigned this task. The English captain and players debunked Willis, who nonetheless stood his ground. The Lankans privately tut-tutted that the former captain was right.
Meanwhile, the ICC remained stoically noncommittal saying no official complaint had been made. The tournament soon rolled along, but a point had been made. My point is, what if the accused team was Pakistan or India?
This brings me to India. Three matches played, all won handsomely, the batting brilliant, the bowling incisive, the fielding spectacular. What’s up, guys?
Considering that the team came here with the spot-fixing scam raging back home, the players were under great pressure, but this doesn’t seem to have mattered a whit. Perhaps adversity has steeled the resolve of the players, brought them closer. This is not unknown in sport though, I think the more important factor is the bold selection, which has paid off.
This is a new-look team, with only four players from the 2011 squad that won the World Cup still around. Young legs have made a big difference, especially in the fielding, so long the bane of Indian cricket. There is evident fearlessness and deep ambition too in these young players, with Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja symptomizing these best.
A core team for the 2015 World Cup is visible already. But that is looking far ahead into the future. In light of the current happenings, there could be no better salve for Indian cricket than winning this tournament.
Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.