The 2013 edition of the Champions Trophy will be remembered by many as Shikhar Dhawan’s tournament. Who can forget his two back-to-back hundreds in the group games, or the 363 runs he scored in the tournament, which eventually earned him the 'Player of the Tournament' award. But it could so easily have been England’s. And could just as easily have been no one’s at all.
A new era:
India went into the tournament with what could be called a side in transition. The shadows of India’s ‘big four’ batters were just receding, and Rohit Sharma had been recast in the role of an opener; one that he consequently made his own, but was back then a gambit.
In the fielding department, the trend that Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif had set a decade earlier had finally become the norm. Five of India’s top six were exceptional fielders, and Ravichandran Ashwin was proving useful at slip. The rest of the bowlers were dependable, and India no longer looked a side that might spring leaks in the field when the pressure was on.
Road to the final: India
Shikhar Dhawan picked up from where he left off in his Test debut, making no distinction between Mohali and Cardiff. A step-out-punch-through-cover that went for four all along the ground, against South Africa was a harbinger of the kind of success he would enjoy in the tournament, starting with a hundred in that game. He and Rohit put on a hundred partnership after being asked to bat first, turning the South African plan to bowl short on its head. The bowlers backed them up, the highlight being a brilliant effort by Ravindra Jadeja to run out Robin Peterson for 68.
India utterly dominated their next three games, including the semi-final. Dhawan posted another hundred against the West Indies, and India registered their first win against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy in a rain-curtailed game.
Road to the Final: England
England went in to the tournament with a side that most would have mistaken for the Test team had they not been garbed in bright red. Cook, Trott and Bell made up the top three, and only lower down did we see signs of limited-overs intent, through Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara.
They started off with a win over Australia, where James Anderson went past Darren Gough as England’s highest wicket-taker. A win against New Zealand crafted by the bowlers followed, and despite a Kumar Sangakarra hundred that handed them a loss in the group game, they were through to the semis. There, they cruised past South Africa, who once again left an ICC tournament having lost a knock out match.
The farcical final:
The final was as much fiasco as it was spectacle. Rain came down unabated for much of the day, and the match, 50-over long at the toss, was eventually reduced to a 20-over contest. This suited India more than England; Only five players from England’s team made their T20 squad, while India’s younger team had more vim about them. More importantly, there was no reserve rain day, which meant slightly more rain could have seen millions of fans disappointed, like a gripping novel with the last chapter ripped out.
India struggled after being asked to bat first, sinking to 66/5 in 13 overs. Some bold stroke-play on a dicey wicket by Virat Kohli and Jadeja led a counter attack. After a shaky start from England, involving two stumpings by Dhoni off both his spinners, Morgan and the in-form Bopara brought England back in the game with a 64-run partnership, the highest of the match.
What happened next is now part of the rich legacy of MS Dhoni. England needed 28 runs of 18 balls, and the last two overs were sure to be used as the batting powerplay. Hoping to reserve his spinners for those, Dhoni gave the ball to Ishant Sharma, who till then was India’s most expensive bowler going for 27 runs in his three overs. This despite Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav having overs to spare.
A dot, a six, and two wides later, the entire country was cursing Dhoni and lamenting his choice. And two balls later, Ishant had dismissed both set batters, and Dhoni went from senile to savant. Even in Indian politics, never was there such a large U-turn of public opinion about a national policy.
Images of Dhawan and Kohli doing the 'Bhangra' at Birmingham are iconic. As is Dhoni’s in his white jacket, the first Indian captain to win the final (Sourav Ganguly's India had to share the trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002), and claimer of all three ICC titles.
All’s not well that ends well
The tournament was not without controversy though. Most memorable and least savoury was David Warner punching Joe Root in a bar, after Australia had been knocked out of the tournament. Warner was handed a month long ban from all cricket by Cricket Australia, and missed the first two Tests of the Ashes series that followed. Compare that to the Warner of today: sober, reliable, and a vice-captain Australia is proud of; verily, from ‘the bull’ to ‘the Reverend’.
There were also two instances of pitch invasions by Sri Lankan fans during the India-Sri Lanka semi-final, and political protests against alleged atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils that held up the Sri Lankan bus after the game.
Also, the ICC’s decision to not schedule a reserve day. With millions of fans heavily invested in the tournament, a little more rain would have meant that those fans would have gone home disappointed, and the ICC might have received much criticism for not learning from the 2002 edition, where the final was rained out twice.
But the biggest talking point was how the 2013 edition of the tournament was to be its last incarnation. It was essentially, a second World Cup (it was initially called the 'Mini World Cup') and to maintain primacy of that tournament and make way for a Test Championship, the tournament was to be discontinued.
It is important to remember that it had started as a way to galvanise cricket in the non-major countries, being hosted in Bangladesh first and then in Kenya under different guises. Ironic that it has now been revived because of its cash cow status, and till 2023, will only be hosted by cricket’s elite.
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Updated Date: May 29, 2017 14:34:12 IST