MS Dhoni's Team India: The great Indian juggernaut? Or maybe not!
Juggernaut: In colloquial English usage means a literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly destructive and unstoppable.
If I borrowed a time machine from Dr. Emmett Brown and zapped myself into the early 2000s and said to an Indian cricket fan, “One day, India would be the number one ranked side in the ODIs,” I would, undoubtedly, have been punched in the face for being sarcastic.
However, after basking in the lower half of the ICC ODI rankings table for the better half of 4 years starting in 2003, India’s salvation seemed to have finally materialized in the form of a long-haired hard hitting young wicket-keeper batsman. Following Dhoni’s arrival at helm of the ODI side, India rose at the ranking table like a phoenix reincarnated from the ashes of its battered old self.
After a historic World Cup win and a rough period of transition that followed it, India have finally scaled the summit of world ranking, standing atop after chasing at Australia’s heels for three whole years.
But something didn’t quite feel right. Maybe the circumstances under which they reached there – ODI series loss to arch-rivals in their own backyard; or maybe the way they actually got there – barely edging out England (3-2) and backed by the fortuitous 1-2 home series loss for South Africa against New Zealand; it somehow felt more like a underachiever riding the luck of his life onto the champion’s throne while the actual champions recuperate, reorganize and retake the throne rather than a new champion being crowned.
After all, the point difference between India and the second-placed England was only 0.2. But, the three-month long hiatus from ODIs saw ensured that India retained their number one status going into the ICC Champions Trophy.
Champions Trophy was supposed to be a trial by fire for India, an opportunity to dispel any doubts around them being the number one side. Although the good omens were there, like the 4-0 trouncing Australia was handed in the test series and good run of key Indian players in the IPL, we know all too well how volatile and provisory form can be.
Under the overcast English summer skies, on the grassy pitches, everyone expected India to struggle and flounder. Sure enough, they struggled to bowl against Sri Lanka in the first practice match giving away 333 runs with only a couple of wickets to show for. The batting also confirmed what everybody predicted, being reduced to 110-4 in 20 overs. That is the point where India broke off from the script everybody seemed to have made up in their minds.
The turnabout was somewhat fairy tale-like. Before the tournament started, India getting to the knock-out stages seemed a far cry from reality, let alone winning the champions trophy. Win they did, but it is the manner of the victory that was the most fantastic. Their clinical, almost dismissive routings made them instant favorites.
Right after the first league match, it was clear that India would take the trophy. It was just a matter of who would lose it to them. Such was the confidence that their performance leading up to the final had inspired. Two Indian teams won World Cups before this and many other before them won a motley mix of some memorable and some forgotten trophies; but, never before with the dominance and the ruthlessness that was characteristic of this side.