Now that Team India led by Virat Kohli had failed to defend the Champions Trophy 2017 analysing the for the humiliating 180 run final loss to arch- rival Pakistan has truly begun.
In- fact the moment India bowled out for 158 , news channels who till now were discussing the tense Kashmir situation suddenly switched direction and went berserk at the Men in Blue. Lashing out the team and were busy identifying the villains of the game.
Nothing surprising for the fact this has been the trend in recent times every time the team falters in major event. But the anger lasts only for few days. Moment another match or series comes and Team India is back on the winning spree, the same very players who were getting brickbats were now getting bouquets in hordes. This is cricket and this is India . Where cricket is a religion. We adore and hate the players in equal measure.
Coming to our champions Trophy 2017 campaign, and the question one needs to ask is whether were we really serious of defending the crown at the first outset? It is a No. Team India , Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble and his men did not get a green signal from the BCCI whether they will be defending the title or not till the last minute. The BCCI got into a ugly spat with the ICC over its new revenue model which reduced the Indian cricket board’s revenues from USD 570 million to USD 293 million.
Peeved at BCCI’s waning clout by ICC, India was the only country that missed the April 25 deadline to announce the team. A defiant and arrogant BCCI had to be pulled up CoA Vinod Rai to announce the squad. It was after Rai’s pro- active role that BCCI finally named the squad on May 8.
If this was not enough, the BCCI in rather stupid decision decided to bring out the application for the Team India’s head coach . That meant that current coach Anil Kumble was not sure he will stay or not after the mega event in England. A move, that invited strong criticism from former greats like spin legend Bishen Singh Bedi. “Do these people who call the shots at the BCCI, qualify to even tie Kumble’s boot laces? Our team has just landed in England to defend their Champions Trophy title and you advertise for candidates… where is the sanity? I am aghast over this attitude,” Bedi reportedly told mid-day.
With position of the head coach unclear and reports of differences cropping in the media of the likely rift between head coach Anil Kumble and skipper Virat Kohli meant that Team India was saddled with host of issues off the field.
Off the field issues took the backseat when India took the field and strong performance in the opener beating Pakistan by 124 runs (D/L method), 8 wicket win over South Africa, a shock loss to Sri Lanka despite scoring 321 and a majestic 9 wicket win over Bangladesh saw India reach final and yet again against arch- rivals Pakistan.
It could not have got better than this. Pakistan has always been a unpredictable side. On a good day they can beat anybody ( Favourites England and South Africa will agree) and lose to anybody. The Sarfaraz Ahmad led young side did the unthinkable and pulled off a sensational win in the final. Humbling the defending Champions Virat Kohli led India by a massive 180 runs.
The win was desperate one for Pakistan cricket’s survival. Isolated from the cricketing world with no cricket being played at home ever since the dastardly attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team players by terrorists in 2009 near the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore. It may be recalled that six members of the Sri Lanka national cricket team were injured. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed. The audacious attack shook the cricketing world and Pakistan was forced to play its home matches in Sharjah and Dubai.
Pakistan players were already banned in the IPL after the first edition in 2008 after the 26/11Mumbai attacks. India has refused to play bilateral cricket series with Pakistan until it stops abetting terror from its soil. So given the scenario Pakistan found itself in the cricketing arena, the 2017 Champions trophy win has given them some hope for the future and hopefully some ray of hope of a likely return of cricket in Pakistani soil. The win is sort of redemption for Pakistan cricket to be precise.
For India on the other hand , the final loss to arch – rivals Pakistan was bitter pill to swallow. It was the first tournament for Virat Kohli as skipper in an ICC event since taking over from Mahendra Singh Dhonii in all formats. But it ended in a disappointing manner. Kohli had come into the tournament after a very poor season with the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. His team finished at the bottom of the table. Kohli’s form too was a worry. During the IPL too when he was out with shoulder injury, Kohli had hinted that he would be back in action once he is hundred percent fit and Indian cricket more than RCB was his priority so he would not rush back from injury.
Kohli was in form in England . 76 against Pakistan was followed by 81 against South Africa and 96 against Bangladesh. He did not fire against Sri Lanka and failed in the much awaited final.
But why rue Kohli’s failure?. Just look at Mohammad Amir and his inspiring spell. It was a treat to watch. Amir dismissed first Rohit Sharma , then Virat ( first he was dropped at slip) then in very next ball he was caught and later on Shikhar Dhawan to rattle India and dashed India’s hopes of getting anywhere near the massive 339 target.
Amir’s spell made one go down memory lane and recall the spell by Legendary Wasim Akram in the 1992 World Cup final against England. Akram first had Ian Botham out getting an outside edge and then bowled two magnificent deliveries to dismiss Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis .
The loss in the final brought to the fore some serious questions for Team India and the selectors . How come Ravichandran Ashwin literally struggles to take wickets abroad and is very poor in ODI’s compared to Tests? Is Ashwin dangerous only on spin friendly tracks in India? When was the last time Ravindra Jadeja did shine with the bat apart form one or two fine catches or a run- out? Is the time now over for Yuvraj Singh in the middle order? Ajinkya Rahane is too good a player to be sitting out. How long will Mahendra Singh Dhoni keep wickets for India? Is the time ripe now for young Rishabh Pant to step into MSD’s shoes?
These are some pertinent questions that needs to be answered quickly if Team India has plans to win the 2019 World Cup in England.
For skipper Kohli too, the loss is learning curve. He has experienced the highs and now the lows and the pressure of being the Indian skipper. The onus is on him how he bounces back from this loss as questions are being raised as to why he decided to bat in the final after winning the toss. He is no doubt the premier batsman in world cricket today but as a skipper Kohli would be fine if he takes a leaf out of former Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s book and move ahead. That would be great for Indian cricket.