BY WASIM PARKAR – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
India continued their upward curve in International cricket after the annus horribilis of 2012, by becoming the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. Few expected India’s passage to the knockout stages of the tournament to be so smooth, and many more might be surprised that their success has been based on the brilliant performances of two of their newest southpaws.
Despite their horrible loss of form and the subsequent dropping of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, there were many who genuinely feared how a relatively new opening pair would fair in difficult English conditions. Step forward Shikhar Dhawan. The man from Delhi has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and made the opening spot his own in all forms of the game.
Dhawan has scored centuries in both of India’s games so far, setting up India for a dominating total against South Africa and easing the team to victory in a straightforward chase against the West Indies. He is the leading run-scorer in the tournament, with an aggregate of 216 runs at a strike-rate of 107.46.
However, numbers tell only part of Dhawan’s story. When you can drive through the covers like Sourav Ganguly, cut like Gambhir, pull like Yuvraj Singh and score at Sehwag’s rate without looking a walking wicket, one is not far from being the perfect Indian opening batsman. The ease and calmness that he brings with him to the crease permeates through the whole batting order, a fact borne out by the enigmatic Rohit Sharma finally instilling a previously unseen discipline in his role as Dhawan’s opening partner.
While Dhawan has been the batting story of the tournament, his teammate Ravindra Jadeja has been a revelation with the ball. Since being selected for the final test against England in December, Jadeja has displayed consistency with ball and bat in all forms of the game and his cemented his place as the leading all-rounder for the Indian team.
Jadeja’s batting has always been impressive, if a little inconsistent, but the value he brings to the team as a bowler is surely the biggest reason for India’s improvement this year. Jadeja has developed into a lethal left-arm spinner after honing his craft by delivering over after over in domestic cricket.
Jadeja tops the bowling charts at the Champions Trophy, with seven wickets at a remarkable of average of just 9.57, and a fantastic strike rate of 16.2. Like Dhawan, figures alone don’t do Jadeja justice. His repertoire includes a flighted delivery that can deceive batsmen in the air, an arm-ball that goes straight and a faster one. Even more impressive is the fact that Jadeja knows how to use his variety according to the match situation, thus establishing himself as Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s go-to spinner ahead of the more classical Ravichandran Ashwin.
After qualifying for the semi-final with such ease and panache, India have certainly established themselves as favourites to win the tournament. There are other individuals in the Indian team capable of winning matches on their own, but the signs are that if India are to cross the final hurdle, one or both amongst Dhawan and Jadeja will certainly will have a big role to play.