Hope for a bright future for India

Dhoni's boys were peerless in the Champions Trophy — a rare achievement for a young team.

Dhawan, Dhoni and Jadeja at a photocall in Birmingham on Monday.

The conclusion to the 2013 Champions Trophy was far from ideal with the final being reduced to a 20-over shootout courtesy of the wet English summer, but there's no disputing that the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led India team were deserving winners of the last edition of the ICC tournament.

The Indian team came into the Champions Trophy in the backdrop of the spot-fixing and betting scandal in IPL-6, with Dhoni also finding himself at the centre of a conflict of interest controversy. That pressure and intense scrutiny by itself was a huge challenge to overcome for the Blue Brigade; throw in the fact the tournament was being hosted on pitches and under conditions tough on Indian teams of the past, not many would have bet on Dhoni walking away with the trophy.

Dhoni and his band of merry men, however, showed they meant business in the warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and Australia as they recorded convincing victories to send out a strong warning to other teams ahead of the tournament proper. The massive 243-run win against Australia, especially, would have injected confidence aplenty in each member of India's Champions Trophy squad.

The momentum of the warm-up wins was carried into India's first match of the Champions Trophy as Shikhar Dhawan blitzed his way to his maiden One-Day International century and tore into the South African attack, and despite a late fightback from Ryan McLaren, Dhoni's team ran out comfortable winners to set the foundation for their dominant performances in the tournament.

The defending world champions then coasted to victories in their remaining group matches against West Indies and Pakistan before easily despatching Sri Lanka in the semi-finals and then edging past England in the grand final.

Dhoni used the same playing XI in all five of India's matches in the Champions Trophy as he showed great faith even in someone like Ishant Sharma, who blew hot and cold during the tournament, and also backed Rohit Sharma to succeed at the top of the order, which the right-handed batsman did to an extent.  

Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli were the only three survivors from the India team that beat Sri Lanka in Mumbai to win the 2011 World Cup during the victorious Champions Trophy campaign, and while such a drastic change in the squad could easily have backfired, it is to the credit of the skipper and his players that they embraced the challenge of gelling together in quick time admirably. The Champions Trophy success will also ease some of the pressure on India's under-coach Duncan Fletcher and his support staff.

The biggest gains for India in the Champions Trophy were the emergence of Shikhar Dhawan as a reliable hard-hitting opening batsman, who can bully bowling attacks; and Ravindra Jadeja's ability to deliver consistently at the crucial No. 7 slot. Dhawan, who was named Player of the Tournament, scored back-to-back centuries en route to becoming the tournament's highest run-scorer with 363 at an average of 90.75 and strike rate of 101.39. Jadeja played a couple of crucial innings, including in the final, down the order and took 12 wickets - the most in the tournament - at an average of 12.83 and economy rate of 3.75 with his left-arm spin bowling.

Dhawan and Sharma also showed there's life at the top of the order after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir as the pair set the ball rolling for India with some solid opening partnerships.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar added to his growing reputation as a smart young bowler, R Ashwin established himself as India's go-to bowler and Umesh Yadav, while a work-in-progress, is an asset to this team with his a rare ability of swinging the ball both ways at high pace. Dhoni, Kohli and Raina are established stars and the fact that the average age of India's Champions Trophy squad is only 26 years, augurs well for the future.

A direct consequence of the youthful nature of the team was seen in the field as Dhoni's team outshone England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, to be the best fielding side in the Champions Trophy. The Indian team also played fearless cricket in the Champions Trophy and were up for and overcame all kinds of challenges.

Dhoni and his team played like world champions and the No.1 ODI team in the world, and the fact India has bench strength that's yet to be tested ahead of the 2015 World Cup, paints a solid and bright future for the country in the shorter formats.

Dhoni, on his part, reiterated yet again that he is the best captain currently in limited-overs cricket. He utilised his resources brilliantly, led from the front, his tactics and man management skills were spot on, and Dhoni even turned his arm over in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka. It's no coincidence that India have won the 2007 World Twenty20, 2010 Asia Cup, 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy under Dhoni's leadership.

The 2015 World Cup is still a couple of years away, but India appear to be on the right track to zero in on their squad for the mega-event to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The future of Indian cricket in the limited-overs formats looks bright, but for now, it's time to toast the dominance of Dhoni's team and their success in the Champions Trophy.

TOP PERFORMERS AT CHAMPIONS TROPHY (ALL TEAMS):

MS Dhoni (India): Six years as captain. Two World Cups. One Champions Trophy. The No.1 status in Tests and ODIs. The right to cock a snook at colonial cricketing structures. If Dhoni retired with ... more 
MS Dhoni (India): Six years as captain. Two World Cups. One Champions Trophy. The No.1 status in Tests and ODIs. The right to cock a snook at colonial cricketing structures. If Dhoni retired with immediate effect his place in the pantheon of all-time great captains will still be a safe bet. less 
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Getty Images | Photo by Contributor / Matthew Lewis-ICC
Mon 24 Jun, 2013 1:30 PM IST

[TAG: CYCSPL]

ALSO SEE:
India kings of one-day cricket again
Dhoni hails India's champion spirit
In Pictures: India win 2013 Champions Trophy
Current side could be India’s best in ODIs
Shades of B&H World Championship in India’s campaign

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