After India’s miserable World Cup 2007 campaign, the BCCI management decided to take some radical decisions. They realised that whereas brilliance could be expected from senior players like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Agarkar, Pathan, Zaheer Khan etc, what Indian cricket is looking for is something different, a raw energy that wants to prove something.
Hence a different formula was favoured. There was an unexpected and unprecedented injection of youth in the Twenty20 Cup, which surprised everyone as India thwarted the likes of Australia and South Africa, and defeated a strong Pakistani side in the final.
Today Indian cricket stands on a different pedestal to where it was this time last year. There is a feeling around the team which has permeated towards the BCCI and in turn has touched the entire nation. This is a feeling of belief, of the knowledge and determination to succeed consistently at the highest level. There is a sense of responsibility, of confidence and more importantly than anything else, of professionalism not witnessed in Indian cricket for a long time.
Where the going gets good, every team management faces delicious dilemmas. Tendulkar is not yet a dispensable aspect of India’s top order. He still scores runs consistently and definitely scores a big knock or two when he is provoked by stinging media criticism. Gambhir has proven to be an inspirational find, especially in the ODI arena. There are too many positives about Gambhir to go through in the context of a small mention in an article, but the most impressive aspect of his form is that he is scoring when it matters, under pressure and against quality bowling. Gambhir has managed to provide an odd sense of stability in what was up to now an unstable top order, its general batting genius notwithstanding. Not only is he contributing with match winning knocks, he is also scoring at a very handsome strike rate of 82, this series. It goes without saying that he has been thus far the batsman of the tournament, ahead of the likes of Ponting, Clarke or Tendulkar.
And then we have Ishant Sharma, who could be mistaken for a fast bowler from Punjab across the border. He is tall, fiery, bowls at a good pace, is determined to make a name for himself, and (we have recently discovered) has a bit of an attitude to go ahead with his splendid bowling. Ishant’s imperious form has provided a dilemma to the Indian selectors- would he be preferred over the likes of Zaheer, Sreesanth and Munaf in the coming future?
Uthappa is another fascinating find. If you look at his body language there is nothing to suggest he bears a demon within, which can unleash and destroy any bowling attack in a matter of moments. His recent sixer off Brett Lee, which resembled swatting an irritating mosquito more than flicking the fastest bowler in the world for a maximum, will stay in the memory for some time. Ravi Shastri and Michael Slater pointed out his immaculate defence, which is a rarity for someone who has such a flamboyant style of batting.
Finally we have Praveen Kumar, a deceptive and sly medium pacer who can also bat lower down. The best thing about Praveen is his presence of mind and temperament. He can swing the ball both ways and carries the propensity to surprise the batsman. In this way he is a bit like Fawad Alam from Pakistan, who appears to be a very ordinary spinner at first sight but gets most of his victims out because of that reason. Praveen deserved to in the MOM award today and this will do wonders for his confidence, as he was only playing his third ODI.
An article praising the Indian youngsters cannot go without complimenting their brilliant leader. Dhoni is exactly what Indian cricket has been looking for. He can bat aggressively and defensively according to the situation although mainly he loves to slog. He is an excellent planner, possesses superb temperament and knows the game like the back of his hand. His captaincy is inspirational. He is practical minded and knows exactly about the capabilities of his players. One of his greatest assets has been to utilise those bowlers that are needed most according to the requirements of the situation. He is mature, wise and best of all, very humble, despite his gargantuan achievements ever since he made his debut.
As has been mentioned previously on numerous occasions, India now is a major threat to good teams in world cricket. Perhaps the best illustration of India’s newly-discovered glory is that for the first time in a long, long while, there is a realistic likelihood of India defeating Australia 2-0 or 2-1 in the finals and hence winning the CB Series.