NEW DELHI: As Virat Kohli’s team enters the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy hoping to defend the title won under MS Dhoni four years ago, here’s a look at five of India’s best wins at the tournament since its inception in 1998.
During the inaugural edition of the tournament, then known as the Wills International Cup, India faced Australia in the third quarter-final in Dhaka and were carried by Sachin Tendulkar during what was his most successful year as an Indian cricketer. India, asked to bat, were in early trouble with the losses of Sourav Ganguly for 1 and Mohammad Azharuddin for 0 but that did not faze Tendulkar, who crashed a series of sublime boundaries off back foot and front. He targeted Michael Kasprowicz in particular, whose first seven overs cost 62 despite the wicket of Ganguly.
Tendulkar didn’t look back. His 19th ODI century needed 94 balls and he was eventually run out for 141 off 128 balls, with three sixes and 13 fours. Dhaka cheered as Tendulkar walked off, but he was not finished.
Given the ball after Mark Waugh had put Australia in with a chance of chasing 308, Tendulkar flummoxed the batsmen with his assortment of offbreaks and legbreaks. Steve Waugh was caught and bowled, Michael Bevan was bowled and Damien Martyn and Brad Young lulled into false shots. Tendulkar had 4/38, Australia were all out for 263 in the 47th over and out of the tournament.
A team led by Ganguly, with some fresh faces, attempted to put Indian cricket back on track following the match-fixing scandal when it landed in Nairobi for the tournament’s second instalment. And it got a rousing start, driven by two rookies in Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan who knocked out Australia in the quarter-finals.
In his first innings – he made his debut four days earlier but didn’t get to bat – Yuvraj dazzled with 84 off 80 balls against Australia. After being put in to bat, India found themselves in a spot of bother with Tendulkar, Ganguly and Rahul Dravid departing in seven overs. Then walked in Yuvraj, all of 18 years old, and with a stunning series of strokes he grabbed the Australian attack by the scruff of its neck. Forty-eight of his 84 runs came in boundaries, while the rest were the result of lightning quick running between the wickets. Thanks to his punchy innings, India made a winning 265/9 in their 50 overs.
In the field, Yuvraj first took a good catch to send back Ian Harvey for 25 and then got the most vital wicket of the Aussie innings, running out their most consistent ODI batsman, Bevan, for 42. Zaheer’s contribution was the big wickets of Adam Gilchrist and Steve Waugh, the latter yorked by a superb delivery that would prove to be the left-arm pace bowler’s hallmark over the years.
The first semi-final of the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka was heading toward a dull climax before South Africa lost wickets dramatically to hand India victory by 10 runs. Chasing 262, they were coasting at 192/1 until Herschelle Gibbs, on 116, was forced to retire hurt. Moments later, Jonty Rhodes reverse-swept Harbhajan Singh and was superbly taken, one-handed and with lovely anticipation, by Yuvraj. A third catch helped cap a remarkable Indian win.
Incidentally, it was the first wicket to fall earlier in the evening that bore Yuvraj’s stamp and was a precursor to how influential he would be in the field. His spectacular catch at point, flying to his right, cut off Graeme Smith on four. But before all this, it was Yuvraj’s priceless 62 that gave India runs to defend. It was the top score of India’s innings, coming from the No 6 spot.
Dhawan, Jadeja fire India to winning start
Much of India’s success at the 2013 edition held in England was based on the strong starts provided by their openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma: the pair put on 127, 101, 58, 77 and 19 with Dhawan finishing as Player of the Series. Back in the ODI squad after two years, Dhawan started the tournament with a match-winning 114 off 94 balls as South Africa were beaten by 26 runs in Cardiff. A breezy unbeaten 47 from Ravindra Jadeja down the order overcame a bit of a late-gasp wobble and helped India to 331/7, which proved more than enough to beat a strong South African outfit. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma took some stick but claimed wickets that pegged South Africa back, and some top-notch fielding helped keep them to 305 in their 50 overs. Jadeja got his exceptional tournament going with two vital wickets in an economical nine overs.
India’s T20 skills to the fore in soggy but thrilling final
India met England in the final of the 2013 Champions Trophy on a wet Sunday in Birmingham, and had their skills in the Twenty20 format to thank. Rain reduced the contest to 20-overs-per-side and India, put in to bat by Alastair Cook, huffed and puffed to 129/7 which at the innings break looked to be insufficient. Led by Ravi Bopara’s seam-up stuff in damp conditions, England dominated most of India’s innings with only Dhawan (31) and Virat Kohli (43) offering a fight until Jadeja stepped up with an unbeaten 33 off 25 balls.
England’s top three of Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott did not feature in T20Is and when the hosts slumped to 46/4 the difference in the two sides assumed far greater significance. Bopara and Eoin Morgan forged a stand of 64, the highest of the match, which left England in control as the final five overs began.
That’s when Dhoni took a risk in persisting with Ishant despite an 11-run 15th over, a move that proved match-winning. Morgan pulled the second ball for six, followed by two wides. But then, stunningly, Ishant turned the match with the wickets of Morgan for 33 and Bopara for 30, both caught inside the circle by R Ashwin. From here the chase gave way and India won by five runs to achieve the rare double of winning the World Cup and Champions Trophy. England, following three World Cup final defeats and one in the Champions Trophy final in 2004, were again left to wonder what went wrong.