BIRMINGHAM, 16 JUNE: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has told his match-winning young team to remain focused as it approached the business end of the Champions Trophy. The reigning World Cup champions have enjoyed a remarkable campaign in the eight-nation tournament so far, becoming the only team to enter the semi-finals with an all-win record.
But Dhoni knowns all the good work will mean nothing if his team slips up in Thursday’s second semi-final in Cardiff against a still unknown opponent from the wide-open group A. "There are, hopefully, still two more matches to go and we must play with the same intensity that we have shown so far," the Indian captain said.
It has been a formidable display by the tournament’s youngest team in which Dhoni is the oldest member of the side at 31 and reserve spinner Amit Mishra is the only other player aged 30. Former Test batsman Sandeep Patil’s selection panel has been so ruthless in axing non-performers that the current squad has only three players — Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli — who played in the World Cup final two years ago. Dhoni says the induction of young blood has made his team the "top fielding side in world cricket," a praise rarely associated with Indian sides in the past. Dhoni on Saturday lauded his team’s fielding performance against Pakistan saying that they are currently the world’s top fielding side. "The whole team is doing really well in all the three departments. We are the top fielding side in world cricket as of now; we need to keep the intensity up," said Dhoni after India beat their arch-rivals by eight wickets in Birmingham at Edgbaston to finish top of Group B. India had caused two outstanding run-outs of Pakistani batsmen during the match.
The wicket-keeper batsmen also lauded swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the presentation ceremony. The build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by a spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League that led to the arrest of three players, including Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.
"This is the team of the future," India’s former World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev told AFP. "They are playing fearless cricket. Easily the best side in the tournament so far."
Starting the Champions Trophy as rank outsiders despite being the top-ranked one-day side, India began with a 26-run win over South Africa in Cardiff before routing the West Indies by eight wickets. Then on Saturday, they registered their first success over arch-rivals Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, winning a rain-marred encounter at Edgbaston by eight wickets.
Learning curve
His eight overs on the trot set the stage for India to rip through Pakistan in their final Champions Trophy group match but rising pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar feels it is still a long way to go before he can think of himself as the team’s bowling spearhead.
Against Pakistan yesterday, Kumar picked up his maiden Man of the Match trophy after picking up the crucial wickets of Nasir Jamshed and Mohammed Hafeez in eight back-to-back overs.
“In English conditions, the new ball is expected to swing and I feel the captain wants to get the best out of me. I have been doing this quite regularly in India too,” Kumar told reporters after India’s emphatic eight-wicket win against Pakistan here at Edgbaston. Asked whether he is ready to spearhead India’s pace attack, the youngster replied, “I am still learning and speaking to the seniors.”