Twice they were in a precarious situation in the last two tournaments and twice they came out of it with flying colours. First, it was in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy last month and then in the Caribbean tri-series very recently. The young Indian side showed that it's not all about flair but also about holding your nerve in crucial situations and winning trophies.
They were tottering at 66 for 5 in a rain-curtailed match against England last month at Edgbaston before scraping through to reach 129 and then defending it. They were expected to continue with their rich form in the tri-series that started just four days after their triumph in England. But they got off to the worst possible start, losing their first two matches before making a spectacular comeback by winning the next two to qualify for the final and then clinching the trophy by defeating Sri Lanka.
India's selectors had bitten the bullet by taking some tough decisions of dropping Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh - the well-established trio - and bringing in youngsters based on their performance in domestic matches. And the move paid off. They kept faith in Rohit Sharma, who was far from doing justice to the immense talent he has. Asking him to open the batting was a big gamble as the 26-year-old was yet to cement his place in the side and the move could have put added pressure on him. But Rohit took the challenge and absorbed the pressure well, scoring 394 runs since he has been promoted as an opener.
It was always going to be difficult to fill MS Dhoni's big shoes when the Indian captain got injured in the very first match of the tri-series. India lost a close encounter against West Indies before getting hammered by Sri Lanka as Kohli looked clueless at times as the stand-in skipper. It also appeared that the Indian players were yet to get over the euphoria of their Champions Trophy victory. But then began the comeback. They needed big victories in their next two games to have any chance of making it to the final. And they did just that.
Against the hosts West Indies, they came out all guns blazing. First, the batsmen posted a huge score with Kohli leading by example with a century, and then the bowlers, led by Bhuvneswar Kumar, setting up a big win with a bonus point.
But that was not enough as Sri Lanka's victory over West Indies in the next match meant that India needed to win their next game as well. And though they struggled in the 29 overs they batted - scoring 119 for 3 - the timely rain break came to their rescue. The game was reduced to 26 overs-a-side as Sri Lanka were set a revised target of 176. Bhuvneshwar once again set the tone for India, scalping four of the first five wickets, while the other bowlers chipped in as India dismissed the Lankans for 96, registering another victory with a bonus point.
Having reached the final, they were the favourites to win it as well. And Dhoni's return for the match increased that belief further. Sri Lanka, who looked good to post a challenging total with Kumar Sangakkara scoring a valiant half-century, could only reach a below-par 201. But going by the nature of the pitch at Port of Spain, it was never going to be a cakewalk for the Indian batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli departed early as the conditions were helpful for the bowlers. Rohit, along with Dinesh Karthik, although took the Indian score forward, no one would have thought that India would reach a point when they would need 15 runs off the last over with just one wicket remaining. Dhoni once again came to their rescue, hitting the required runs with two balls to spare.
The selectors have further tinkered with the side for the upcoming limited-overs tour to Zimbabwe by bringing in more new faces like Parvez Rasool, Mohit Sharma and Jaydev Unadkat while giving Dhoni, R Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar a well-deserved rest. If India, as expected, continue their winning momentum against Zimbabwe, it will only bring more options for them keeping in mind the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
More from this Section
May 20, 2015, 5:06 pm IST
May 20, 2015, 4:32 pm IST
May 20, 2015, 12:50 pm IST
May 20, 2015, 11:05 am IST