Why India should draw inspiration from 2013 Champions Trophy victory ahead of World Cup
India head into the Cricket World Cup in around 2 weeks’ time after, worryingly, having endured a winless tour of Australia. Despite losing the Test series against the Aussies 2-0, the team had at least put up spirited performances during the Tests, especially in the batting department where most of the top order batsmen scored big runs.
However, the ongoing tri-series, which will see Australia and England play the final on Sunday, hasn’t been anywhere near as fruitful as they would've wanted it to be, with them losing 3 of the 4 matches in the series while one was a no-result.
Following the 3-wicket loss to England on Friday, skipper MS Dhoni once again stressed on the need for the team to switch off and put away their kit bags for a few days. While they can certainly do that, they could perhaps also draw motivation from their Champions Trophy victory in England in mid-2013 when Indian cricket was seemingly down in the dumps.
Champions Trophy victory was totally unexpected
Prior to the tournament, Indian cricket had been rocked by the infamous spot-fixing scandal. Dhoni and his young brigade embarked on a trip to the Old Blighty with almost no expectations from anyone. For most of the players in the squad, it was their first ever visit to the United Kingdom, while the few who had been there earlier hadn’t had the greatest of times.
However, right from the first warm-up match against Sri Lanka, it seemed as if the team didn't care too much about what was going on back home. The Men in Blue chased 330 without much discomfort and then skittled out Australia for 65 after putting up 300 themselves in the second one.
Heading into their first group match vs. South Africa, they weren't given much of a chance, even though the Proteas were missing Dale Steyn due to injury. However, little did the world know then that the Men in Blue would play a brand of cricket that would surprise fans not only back home, but across the world. Led by Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma at the top and well supported by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja with the ball, they pulled off a 26-run win over the Proteas.
If one thought that was a flash in the pan, it certainly wasn't as the Indians won each of their next two matches in convincing fashion. Dhawan, who had remained largely on the fringes due to the presence of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in the national side prior to that year, was showcasing the talent that he possessed on a world stage, scoring centuries in two successive matches against South Africa and the West Indies. He then set up the match against Pakistan to ensure India entered the semi-finals vs. Sri Lanka without having lost a game.
In the semis, led first by the quicker men and then the spinners, the Indians stifled the Lankans completely, restricting them to a below-par 181 for 8 in 50 overs. Once again, as had been the case all throughout, Dhawan and Rohit laid the foundations with the bat for a facile India win.
In the rain-curtailed final against England, India showed that they weren't dependent only on the top order as Ravindra Jadeja played a critical knock of 33 not out off 25 balls lower down the order to propel India to 129 for 7 from 20 overs.
Then with the ball, he picked up 2 for 24 as India pulled off a sensational 5-run win over the hosts. To sum up India's performance in one word, it would be “fearless”. The team played with a sense of flair throughout and it was as if they knew that if they produced their best on the day of the game, there were few who could stop them.
While that victory was quite a while ago and the team has subsequently failed to live up to that standard of performance in overseas conditions, 10 of the players picked for the World Cup were part of that team in 2013: MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav.
It might do Dhawan’s confidence, in particular, a world of good if he can just unwind and have a look at the way he dominated bowlers during the Champions Trophy. Same would be the case with Ravindra Jadeja, who didn't have the best of times on Friday in his first game back from injury.
So while the team takes a break from their hectic schedule, reminiscing about the good times they’ve had as a team recently might help them get some confidence under their belt. And if they do manage to muster some confidence ahead of their all-important opening clash vs. Pakistan, who knows, it might just pave the way for them to lift the World Cup trophy on March 29, 2015.