From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.36 :: NO.28 :: Jul. 13, 2013

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CRICKET / ANALYSIS

10 Out of 10 for two

Here's SHREEDUTTA CHIDANANDA'S scorecard of the performances of the Indian players in the wake of their TRIUMPHANT Champions Trophy outing.

Shikhar Dhawan - 363 runs at 90.75. Score - 10.

The outstanding batsman of the competition, Shikhar Dhawan ensured India did not have to break a sweat, except in the final, in its hunt for victory. Dhawan had shown on Test debut that he had an impatient appetite for runs, but even to those that knew him, the consistent fury of his performances came as a bit of a surprise. The Delhi batsman thumped two hundreds, one fifty, a 48 and a 24- ball-31 in the shortened final to finish with 363 runs for the Golden Bat. His explosive beginnings at the top of the order largely set the tone for India's batting, untroubled as it was. Dhawan's success meant India did not miss Virender Sehwag at the top of the order in England; whether the newcomer can sustain that in the long term remains to be seen.

Rohit Sharma - 177 runs at 35.40. Score - 7.

Accommodated in the side as an opener, Rohit Sharma offered glimpses of a reliable batsman somewhere within, but no sooner did he give hope than he took it away. Shikhar Dhawan and he allied to produce century stands in the opening two games, the first time in six years that had happened with India in successive matches. But scores of 65, 52 and 33 hint at an inability to focus for long periods - and this complaint is not new either. Rohit's dismissal against Sri Lanka was perhaps the ugliest of the lot - a needlessly wild swipe over cover that cost him his off-stump. When he did play well, it was a fine sight: pleasing drives either side of the wicket, as if he was a natural fit for the position. India could have a middle-term combination in the makeshift duo, but only if Rohit overcomes his familiar failings.

Virat Kohli - 176 runs at 58.66. Score - 8.5.

Virat Kohli was outshone by those ahead of him in the order in the opening two games, but he summoned his best form when it mattered. Kohli had looked increasingly threatening as he completed India's run-chase against Pakistan; so when the semifinals came around, Sri Lanka copped it. His innings of 58 commenced carefully but ended in a hurry as India won with 15 overs to spare. Kohli top-scored in the final, a contribution that was critical. His 34-ball-43 was one of the differences between a mediocre total and a workable one. The longer the tournament went on, the better he looked at the wicket. Kohli's value as a fielder is never in question either and he led a fierce, attacking display in the field in England.

Dinesh Karthik - 82 runs at 41. Score - 7.

After two hundreds in the warm-up games, Dinesh Karthik was dismissed cheaply in the opening fixture in Cardiff. He recovered immediately though to post a composed half-century against the West Indies. Karthik was part of the big Indian collapse in the final, but his place in the middle order - one that was barely tested in England - seems secure for the time-being. While being an agile fielder, Karthik also remains a wicket-keeping back-up to M.S. Dhoni - and not just when the captain decides to bowl.

Suresh Raina - 17 runs at 8.50. Score - NA.

Suresh Raina faced only 16 balls in the tournament and was dismissed only twice - so it would be impossible to judge his performance as a batsman. He was victim to the short ball against South Africa and in the final - a stop-start 20-over knockabout - a hurried shot cut his innings short. Raina continued to show why he is considered one of India's best fielders, holding a couple of excellent catches in the slips.

M. S. Dhoni - 27 runs at 13.50, 5 catches and 4 stumpings. Score - 9.

M. S. Dhoni had an exceptional tournament - as captain, he was proactive, inspired, and willing to take a punt. He also seemed a demonstrative, happy man bringing the best out of a young, spirited bunch. He stumped and caught with aggression, shuffled his bowlers around smartly, judged DRS reviews well, and even brought himself on to bowl when he felt something could come of it (and it nearly did). In the final, he gambled on Ishant Sharma and it paid off - although it could be argued that fortune played a role in it. His dis- missals of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell were not in the least simple. Dhoni completed his collection of ICC trophies with the win, a feat - even if the Champions Trophy is to be retained in the calendar - that is unlikely to be emulated.

Ravindra Jadeja - 80 runs from two innings (undefeated) and 12 wickets at 12.83. Score - 10.

Any suggestions ahead of the Champions Trophy that Ravindra Jadeja would finish as the tournament's highest-wicket taker would have been laughed off as preposterous. But on pitches that were drier than had been expected, Jadeja was a revelation, his accuracy and a potent arm ball earning him 12 wickets. The Saurashtra player took wickets at critical moments, changing the direction contests were headed in - especially so against South Africa and the West Indies. Even in the semifinal, when he managed only one wicket, it was that of Mahela Jayawardena. Dhoni spoke more than once of the need for Jadeja to improve his batting to be considered a good all-rounder, but the latter made a difference when he had the chance. His runs in the competition's first and last games showcased his skills in the area, proving that he had matured much as an international cricketer since his tough early days.

Ravichandran Ashwin - 8 wickets at 22.62. Score - 7.5.

The wickets column may not tell the full story but R. Ashwin came good at the right time. Against the West Indies and Pakistan, he bowled tight, crucial spells that tied the opponent down. His performance in the semifinal was overshadowed but it was no less important, the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara around his legs one enduring image from the tournament. In the final, on an Edgbaston pitch where the ball bit and ripped and bounced, he removed Jonathan Trott and Joe Root - wickets that put England on the backfoot. Much had been said of how the new rules would affect India's spinners but over the two weeks, it seemed Ashwin thoroughly enjoyed bowling, tossing the ball up and generating handsome turn. He still retains M. S. Dhoni's faith as a bowler for the big occasion.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar - 6 wickets at 22.83. Score - 8.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar enacted his new-ball role to perfection, taking early wickets and - thanks to a largely unerring accuracy - keeping the runs down. Dhoni understood that his impact was most with the new ball and gave him seven or eight uninterrupted overs at the beginning. Except in the final, he dismissed one of the openers in all games, a quiet weapon at the heart of India's success. He was Man of the Match against Pakistan, figures of 8-2-19-2 typical of his frugal ways throughout the tournament. The ball didn't swing as much as had been expected but the UP bowler was still hard to score off.

Ishant Sharma - 10 wickets at 21.80. Score - 7.5.

Till his three for 33 in the semifinal, Ishant Sharma had done little of note. Although he seemed to have come back to life against Sri Lanka, he was far from the strike bowler India needs him to be, appearing mechanical. This is not to hold Ishant to a higher standard than the rest of the bowlers, but with his experience and the long run in the team that he has enjoyed, it is not wrong to wish for better. In the final, Ishant - entrusted with the 17th over - appeared to have blown it but two wickets in two balls changed India's fortunes and the way his role in the competition will be perceived. His slower ball to Eoin Morgan was appreciable but he needs more defining performances, for his own sake and the team's.

Umesh Yadav - 4 wickets at 49.50. Score - 7.

Umesh Yadav, like Ishant, was expensive but his role in the team is different from that of the other bowlers. It is to bowl fast and though he did that, his control over length still needs improvement. Dhoni was honest in admitting that he needed Umesh to think more as a bowler. Once he manages that, the trio of Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and himself - each a different type of bowler - will give opponents headaches. On this tour, he bowled some good spells without reward while there were some bad ones as well.



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