India must keep good vibrations flowing in the West Indies

Jamie Alter | Updated: June 25, 2013, 10:15 AM IST
India must keep good vibrations flowing in the West Indies

One of the most compelling aspects of watching a team on a roll is waiting for it to be stopped. India have just won five matches in a row in the ICC Champions Trophy, the last of which narrowly won them the trophy in Birmingham on Sunday. India entered the final instalment of the tournament against the backdrop of the damning IPL spot-fixing controversy and with concerns over their abilities in England - they had, of course, been totally blanked there in 2011 - but played excellent cricket to beat all before them.

Not once did they slip, and their unbeaten run has now prompted plenty of talk that this is the 15 India should take to the 2015 World Cup.

By all means, Indian fans had a lot to cheer about in the Champions Trophy. There were a tournament-high 363 runs from five matches from Shikhar Dhawan, including consecutive hundreds and one half-century, at a staggering average of 90.75 and strike-rate of 101.39. No bowler in the tournament took more wickets than Ravindra Jadeja's 12, and the left-armer was equally brilliant in the field apart from playing two match-winning innings with the bat.

Rohit Sharma, given another shot due largely to a lack of options, scored two fifties and with Dhawan helped forge two century and two half-century opening-wicket partnerships. Bhuvneshwar Kumar stuck regularly with the new ball, Ishant Sharma had a couple heroic moments. MS Dhoni led shrewdly and astutely and his glove work was excellent, especially to spin. The fielding, as a unit, was top-notch. Clearly, the influence of youth was a massive factor.

Victory in England does not mean that Indian cricket is back to full health. Far from it. The spectre of spot-fixing and a shambolic cricket board riddled with conflicts of interest and lacking spine will not go away with this Champions Trophy win. The caretakers of the sport in India still do not invoke any confidence. The good vibes will only continue if India keep winning. Winning in South Africa later this year, in a tour that will be this team's ultimate test - and one that could make or break a few careers - should be the focus.

A stepping stone towards South Africa should be the upcoming tri-series in West Indies, where India have won their last two ODI contests (in 2009 and 2011). It should not, like the last tour soon after India won the World Cup, be seen as mandatory fill-in-the-gap affair. That the BCCI is sending the same team (barring the injured Irfan Pathan) as that in England is a good sign. India must play the same way they did in the Champions Trophy. Neither West Indies or Sri Lanka should be taken lightly even though both were walloped in the Champions Trophy.

A short ODI tour of Zimbabwe follows, for which it is almost certain that several key players will be rested. The players retained from the current squad should seek to do better, to lift their games and put pressure on those being granted a breather. Those picked to play five ODIs in Harare and Bulawayo should grab their opportunities, look to force their way into India's ODI bench strength. Duncan Fletcher and his staff must seek to win all five ODIs, by big margins. Keep those good vibrations flowing.

India are currently exuding a level of confidence that can really set back opposing teams. The exuberance of youth is overshadowing the shadows from which the team departed India for England. To this scenario there are shades of 2000, when a Sourav Ganguly-led team traveled to Kenya for the ICC Knockout Trophy against the backdrop of match-fixing. Not much was expected of a young side, but in four games India brought back the joy to their fans. The final was lost to New Zealand, but Ganguly's team were heroes. Like in 2013, back then there was plenty of optimism. The players were young, athletic, intense. The captain was leading from the front, steely-eyed and making all the right moves.

As they say, history chooses the best time to repeat itself.

First Published: June 25, 2013, 10:15 AM IST

Team Rankings

1 India 3925 123
2 South Africa 3050 117
3 Australia 3087 100
4 England 3362 99
5 New Zealand 3114 97
FULL Ranking