20 off 15 balls. The Barmy Army, the Men in Red, the home team were cruising. Two of their best T20 batsmen at the crease and India had the long locked boy. ‘Nuff said. England thought they were going to win. EVERYONE thought they were gonna win. But MSD said, Hahahaha! Here take Ishant Sharma and hit him but waiiitttt…….. 2 wickets in 2 balls and suddenly India were back in the Champions Trophy 2013 final. Before England could recover and Alastair Cook could show more emotion, his in-form batsmen were back in the pavilion and his old nemesis – spinners Ashwin and Jadeja had 2 overs left. Last ball 6 off 1, a situation tailor made for Dhoni and Jadeja but Tredwell facing the strike and BOOM! India become the second team after the West Indies to win all three major ICC trophies! A record truly to be valued and applauded with this ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC young team who remain unbeaten in a Champions Trophy tournament and become the ONLY team to successfully defend a total in a Champions Trophy final while beating England on what was their home ground but seemed like the Chinnaswamy Stadium (in Bangalore) with the IMMENSE support!
Going into the final, both teams totally deserved to be there. India were the unbeaten team in the tournament, having faced Australia in the warmup matches and defeating them soundly; South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies in the group stages beating them with conviction and Sri Lanka in the semis, thwarting some of their best batsmen. England had suffered only one loss even after putting up an impressive total. So it seemed to be an amazing day of cricket on display – 23rd June, Sunday at the Edgbaston. But rain had to play its part and almost shut down the final because the ICC were unable to keep a reserve day. The ground staff at the Edgbaston worked tirelessly to wipe out almost all traces of the heavy rain that the ground had to endure for around 6 hours. The ICC also extended the cut off time, something which the commentator Micheal Holding pointed out could have been done in the last group match of South Africa vs. West Indies, in which if WI had got that extended time, would have ultimately qualified for the semis.
There were contest galore. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar had consistently gotten the wickets of the openers in the first ten overs in all the matches India played. It was interesting to see how he played against Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. The spinners, both full and part time, Ashwin, Jadeja and Raina, were poised to create havoc on the English middle order of Buttler, Bopara and Morgan who except for Morgan hadn’t dealt with much spin in the last 2 months. And finally the quality of the English seamers, Stuart Broad and Dale Steyn’s only opponent (apparently) James Anderson fairing against some of the bigger and stylish batsmen of India like the moustached Shikhar Dhawan and Jadeja along with the class and flamboyance of Virat Kohli.
A rain shortened final meant that the entire cricketing world waited for 6 hours along with fans at the Edgbaston to finally see a 20 over per side game. It had everything that a final of the last edition of an ICC tournament needed. The pitch going completely against the analysts’ opinions, stunning catches, killer drives and shots and a nail-biting finish. Being a cricket fan, I truly will miss the Champions Trophy because unlike the World Cup which provided the audience to witness the associate nations in action, the Champions Trophy was short and fast-paced, with the best teams of the world in action against each, star vs. star, best batsman against fastest bowler, best fielding side against best batting side. And while T20 has certainly improved many aspects of the game like perfecting the length of seamers and spinners, increasing the variety and versatility of shots played by batsmen and some fielding worthy of Olympic style gymnastics, the ODI format of the game holds something else. For those non-cricket fans out there, imagine a whole day of nothing but football or a 10 hour long tennis match. It’s something else all together!
And the best part of course of this particular tournament is that now I can successfully argue when I claim that – India are truly the BEST ODI team in the world currently!