Almost exactly two years ago,a heavily-tattooed left-hander from Delhi had caught the fancy of the Sabina Park crowd as they built up for the final contest of a five-match ODI series between the West Indies and India. Shikhar Dhawan had not really set the stage on fire in the series but his free-spirited approach with the bat had made a mark on cricket fans in some of the other isles.
His airy-fairy technique back then had even won him a Bob Marley quote in the stands: Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny. Though not very complimentary,thats what the highly opinionated Sabina crowd thought of the aggressive Indian opener.
Subsequently Dhawan failed to enhance his reputation here,and despite India winning the series 3-2,neither did the then newly-crowned world champions. Just like now,in 2011 too,the Indians had embarked on a Caribbean cruise right after clinching a major ICC trophy but with nine of their cup winners,including skipper MS Dhoni opting out of the party. It was a team made up mainly of fringe players like Dhawan,all equally on the periphery of the national team.
This time around though India land in Kingston with the same bunch of men,sans the injured Irfan Pathan,who lifted the Champions Trophy in London only a few days ago. And not to forget with 27-year-old Dhawan laying claim to being the hottest property in international cricket at the moment.
Such is his present form that it almost feels surreal,absurd even,when the left-hander walks out to bat donning a Team India jersey these days,his famous moustache gelled up and proudly upright at both ends. Few batsmen in world cricket have established the dominance that he presently seems to have against all-comers in such a short space of time.
Though Dhawan should find the conditions in Kingston and Port-of-Spain more favourable than the gloomy climes of England,he will be up against two quality bowling attacks. And one of the most anticipated aspects of the tri-series will certainly be whether Dhawans too-good-to-be-true run continues on unhindered or the dreaded law of averages catches up with the dynamic opener.
The same could be said about the entire team in fact. On a high from their Champions Trophy exploits,Dhoni & Co come here as out-and-out favourites.
Rarely has an Indian team gone into a world tournament and made teams cower under their might like they did in England and got their act together unfailingly in match after match. Not only did they remain unbeaten,it was the indomitable edge that they enjoyed over every opponent that stood out. If their top-order led by Dhawan wasnt guiding them to comprehensive wins,it was the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar,R Ashwin and the inscrutable Ravindra Jadeja doing the damage with the ball.
What India require now is another telling showing and a continuation of their supremacy over two highly competitive sides in alien conditions.
An encore of what they achieved in England will not only dismiss flash in the pan claims,itll also possibly help MS Dhonis present bunch develop an aura of being potential world-beaters for an extended period of time.
The hosts will have their own reputations on the line as they look to settle under new ODI skipper Dwayne Bravo. The Trinidadian was found wanting at crucial junctures during the Champions Trophy and though the West Indies came within a run of qualifying for the playoffs,Bravo has a lot to prove to justify his position at the helm. There are many others in the squad though who need to demonstrate that theyre more than T20 renegades.
The Sri Lankans,who take on West Indies in the tournament opener on Friday,had an impressive Champions Trophy campaign,are in a similar stage with young skipper Angelo Mathews still finding his way. They are no strangers to a tri-series involving India,and with the home team not really firing,Mathews & Co will be looking to renew their perpetual rivalry with their Asian neighbours.
It is India and the likes of Dhawan though who hold the bull by the horn presently in ODI cricket,and the onus is on them to keep the golden run intact and remain steadfast in their quest to create their own niche as top-dogs of the sport. And like for everything else in Jamaica,they could look at Bob Marley for inspiration or probably just a line of his which reads,the good times of today are the sad thoughts of tomorrow and keep their feet glued to the pedal.
Fresh start for SL,WI
Kingston: Eager to leave their Champions Trophy disappointments behind,hosts West Indies and Sri Lanka will square off in the opening match of the tri-series on Friday. West Indies were eliminated in the group stage of the Champions trophy when they lost to South Africa via Duckworth Lewis method while the Lankans were humbled by eventual champions India,who are the third team in the competition.
The teams have come into the tournament with almost the same set of players except that the hosts have left out Ramnaresh Sarwan and Jason Holder. The Lankans were forced to leave out injured opener Tillakaratne Dilshan. Wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin has re-joined the West Indian side after serving his ban for wrongly claiming a catch against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. The Lankans have not played much in this part of the world. The last time they competed here was in the 2007 World Cup but the conditions may support their spin-oriented attack.
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