Birmingham, June 25 -- After the narrow triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy final, India players went up to the dais to collect their prize. The ICC had a surprise in store. Probably, inspired by the Augusta Masters, which hands out a green jacket to the winner, the ICC opted to deck the players up in white blazers. Some had upturned the lapels to form white collars. Beneath the jacket some had upturned the collars of their blue Nike-designed team kits. It was a fitting picture. They looked white collar, but at the core this was a blue collar team.
It's hard to perceive multi-millionaire, sporting superstars as blue-collar workers, but in spirit, if not by their burgeoning bank accounts (all players were gifted R1 crore by the BCCI for winning), this team typified the hard-working labour class.
There were a few factors that made their job easier. There's a belief that India are at home anywhere they play, but nowhere was it more evident than in this tournament. The final in Edgbaston was a case in point. If you weren't good with geography or hemispherical differences and just landed up at the venue, you'd believe India were the home team.
When the names of the players were announced on the public address system the cheers were limited to the India contingent, the loudest roar saved for skipper MS Dhoni. When the names of the 'home' English players were announced jeers rang around the crowd. Ravi Bopara, owing to his Indian heritage, was the only Englishman whose name didn't elicit a round of boos.
The conditions were also stacked in India's favour with the pitches behaving like sub-continental bensen burners more than the seaming tracks one is more accustomed to in England. But, even after considering all these factors, it must be made clear that they went out and won it. Nobody handed them any favours.
It wasn't just that they won, but, more so the manner of victory. They won every match they played, including two warm-ups. Most of the victories were thumping ones. The one that wasn't -the final against England - was the match that showcased the character and resolve of the team.
Three of the top-5 run scorers in the tournament were Indians, three of the top-5 wicket-takers the same. If the batting and bowling was exemplary, it was on the field that this team earned their keep. Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik formed the most dangerous in-field in India's history. There were no freebies on offer. R Ashwin isn't the best of fielders, that's why Dhoni shielded him in the slips, but he took many crucial catches, including a brilliant effort to get rid of Alistair Cook in the final.
Even the bowlers put in the hard yards and saved many crucial runs at the boundary.
Shikhar Dhawan was the unquestionable star with the bat. He hit 363 runs at an average of 90.45 and a strike-rate of 101.39. The most pleasing aspect was his attitude. He attacked the bowling, there was no backing down. He paced his innings' brilliantly and looked to cut loose any time there was a period when the opposition bowlers applied the brakes.
Jadeja, the Man of the Match in the final, narrowly lost the player of the tournament to Shikhar, but he typified the blue-collar nature of the team.
India's biggest tests lie ahead. There are continuous foreign tour to South Africa, New Zealand and England starting this winter. There's the 2015 World Cup. But, for moment let's just sit back and rejoice. India, ICC Champions Trophy, winners. That has a good ring to it!
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.