Champions Trophy 2017 – what could have been better for Team India!


Pakistanis were known to be a suspect against chasing big totals due to their inexperience. Could it have been advantageous for India to bat first, under relatively lesser pressure, after winning the toss? Seems India might have missed a trick, albeit an easier judgement, on hindsight! Kohli has mostly won chasing, so granted that he would have had his own logic to bowl first.

A major error was playing two specialist spinners in “out of the subcontinent condition”! That too when Yuvraj Singh and Kedar Jadhav were there to bowl a few overs of spin. Ravichandran Ashwin did not play enough one dayers in the recent past and advisably skipped the whole of IPL 2017 after the rigors of so many test matches. One would have felt that the superlative performances of Ashwin during the home series test matches, should positively rub off again. However, Ashwin’s greatness is heavily loaded under home conditions. He has yet to prove his match winning prowess in places like England, Australia and South Africa. In the two games that he played before the Champion’s Trophy final match, he was not as effective with his bowling as customarily expected of him, even though he did pick up the all-important wicket of Hasim Amala, during his first game against South Africa. He also does not bring much on the table with his batting & fielding in the limited over games.

Another error, probably the biggest one, was in continuing to let Ashwin bowl his full quota of 10 overs in the finals and not replacing him earlier with change bowlers like Kedar Jadhav and / or Yuvraj Singh. Kedar was brought in very late. Jadeja was ineffective too. Without his livewire presence in the field, even Jadeja’s position in the limited overs playing eleven could be doubtful!

Mohammed Shami is India’s foremost wicket taking strike bowler in overseas conditions and he is quite quick and deceptively skiddy. To have preferred Spinners over him in the finals might have been a case of missed opportunity. One might be tempted to again put it on hindsight prudence!

To the more discerning eye, the issue of not playing Dinesh Karthik at all, may also look like a blip! He was the inform player. His vastly improved style of playing closer to his body, has made him considerably compact and hence, safer. His recent successful performances in the home season, the IPL and the warm up game against Bangladesh, bear testimony. His improved ability to consistently score faster, should have got him ahead of Yuvraj, for a place in the final eleven, during the latter stages of the Champion’s League 2017. Even more so, as Yuvraj misfired after the very initial success!

A more thoughtful strategy by the Selectors might have precluded Yuvraj Singh’s selection in the first place, with due respect to his glorious past. Even though he was never a very good reader of bowlers’ finger movements or a grinder under tough batting conditions, he had more than made up by his incredible natural sharpness & talent in powerfully timing the ball, at will, to the boundary and over. The diminishing valor of his “dismissive style of seemingly arrogant hitting”, was quite apparent during the 2017 IPL. That “instinctive touch”, which for so long had been his forte, has waned nor has there been the sharpness in his fielding. Our selectors might have made a judgmental error in preferring him to Suresh Raina. Raina, a live wire in the field, more than a useful part time spinner and potentially a destructive left-hand batsman, is a high impact package and still young. Yet again, Raina has been ignored for the West Indies tour! No batsman in the world is comfortable against fast, short- pitched bowling. Only a handful have nearly mastered it, while others have learnt to cope with it. During the IPL 2017 Raina showed a much better adaptability to the short-pitched balls. Also pitches around the world are no longer so fast and menacing. Hence, a stronger case for Suresh Raina!

Dhoni’s time also seems to be running out as seen during the IPL and the Champion’s Trophy, save for some sporadic sparks. It is time to bring in Rishab Pant into the mainstream. He is a rare, young talent, full of impact and verve. Selectors have done well to draft him for the West Indies tour. Having said that, MSD has been a stalwart and a legend of World Cricket! While his presence is also that of a mentor & a calming influence in the team, he should selectively play and groom Rishab Pant to gradually take over the mantle from him.

What then have been the shinning lights for India during this champion’s Trophy? The coming of age of Bhuvneshwar Kumar as a premium pace bowler of world class stature, the maturity (learning curve), dependability of Bumbra, consistency of the improved Shikhar Dhawan and the emergence of Hardik Pandya. Hardik has been a sensation and possibly in the mold of Ben Stokes as an all-rounder that India needed badly – a hard-hitting batsman and a pace bowler. India should mostly persist with him in all three formats in overseas conditions and in all one days and T-20s in the sub-continent. The fact that Kohli has given him the recognition is indeed laudable!

Kohli’s captaincy during the entire Champions Trophy was generally good except for one bad day in office during the finals, notwithstanding a communication impasse with the chief Coach. Jadeja should have been more mindful of sacrificing his wicket for Hardik Pandya, who was going great guns and might possibly have taken India past 250 runs in the finals against Pakistan.

As for limited overs bowling and batting, Axar Patel and Krunal Pandya appear to be good bets. Imagine one Pandya coming in to bat after another Pandya brother. What an awesome lower order batting power! One doesn’t need to look too far to understand why Mumbai Indians are consistently doing so well.

The performances in the IPL seem to be a very good indicator of who should be playing for India, not only in the T-20 but also in the one day games. Jasprit Bumbra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan rightfully prove the point. Going by this yardstick, Jaidev Unadkat has a strong case too. Even more so as he is a left arm fast bowler. He could provide the variety in bowling such as the one Pakistan possesses. Kuldeep Yadav the chinamen spinner, if used well, can be a potent surprise weapon.

Hope the Selectors adopt a bolder approach by taking a calculated risk of inducting a few more players, who could potentially provide, the match winning, x-factor in the playing eleven.

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Sandeep Sinha is an avid sports follower with very keen interest in Cricket, Tennis and Badminton. Professional commitments have kept him pre-occupied with other things in life. Now he is looking forward to contributing more to sports, which according to him is “so dear to his life”.



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