Indian captain Virat Kohli summed up the loss on Sunday to Pakistan in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in the simplest way possible. Yes, it was a loss, the second one in four years in an ICC tournament final, but that’s not the end of the world.
In India we have had a habit of turning our cricketers into villains, especially for losses in a knockout game, but this time hopefully reactions will be different.
We have had number of over the top reactions to losses to Pakistan over the years. No one has suffered more than Chetan Sharma, who famously bowled a low full-toss to Javed Miandad which ended in that famous last ball six in the 1986 Australasia Cup final at Sharjah.
That shot from Miandad took 17 years to erase, till our own Sachin Tendulkar cut Shoaib Akhtar to make a statement during the 2003 World Cup. Since then, in some way India has had the wood over Pakistan.
On Sunday, for the first time in 14 years it felt like that shackles had been broken, once again. This time not by a six, but by a no-ball delivered by one of India’s heroes in white ball cricket in the last 12 months, Jasprit Bumrah.
The young right-arm fast bowler completely bottled up under pressure and failed to recover from it. In some way, it was a bit like what happened to a young Zaheer Khan in the 2003 World Cup final. Then Zaheer started off with wides and took on the Aussies verbally to lose the plot completely.
Bumrah was much more understated on Sunday, but yet lost the battle in the mind. Hopefully, Bumrah is not hounded the way Chetan Sharma was all those years ago for this loss.
Thankfully, Bumrah is being rested from the ill-timed West Indies trip. He can go away far from the hustle and bustle for a few days. This way he can recover from the loss in a quiet setting.
Kohli Has Done Nothing Wrong in Captaincy Stint
For captain Kohli however there is no such escape. The games will now keep coming thick and fast. He has little time to recover. But this loss in the final is just a blip on the radar for his captaincy. He is a young ODI captain, having taken up the mantle only this year after MS Dhoni stepped down. He is new also to the T20 role. So we must give him some time to adapt to leading in this format.
Kohli has virtually done nothing wrong in his captaincy stint, earlier in Tests and now till the loss in the ICC Champions Trophy final, in ODIs. India has won virtually everything in the last 12 months in Tests, ODIs and T20Is under both Kohli and Dhoni earlier. That reflects in the way we are nestled in the top three of all three formats.
In fact since the 2015 World Cup, India has been on a fairly good run, barring the ODI series losses in Bangladesh and Australia. There has been a smooth transition from the Dhoni regime to the Kohli era.
There have been a few new players like Hardik Pandya and Bumrah, especially in the limited-overs formats, who have come through. Pandya’s statement of intent, on Sunday, summed up his rising stock as a cricketer. All this should aid in the development of the white ball squads especially. In two years’ time the Indian squad will be back in England and Wales to hopefully wrest the World Cup back.
Target World Cup 2019
We need to start planning from now for that World Cup in 2019. There are a few more course corrections and personnel changes that will happen from now till the World Cup. The good part is that there are quite a few youngsters who are already in the wings, who are willing to take up the mantle in white ball cricket.
We have had blips on the radar over the last couple of years, but it has really been that odd loss that has blighted a perfect record in ICC tournaments.
We need to be aware of the fact that since the 2011 World Cup, in ICC tournaments India has been a consistent side in world events. That’s a tribute to consistency in selection and also to the quality of the players.
In seven years now we have been in four ICC finals, winning twice.
Losses like the one on Sunday will only help Kohli develop further as a captain in the shorter formats. Now as the years pass by, he will have more pressure to shoulder with the eminent departures of Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni. It is good in a way that Kohli is prepared for that, as he was part of the previous transition when the older players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag moved on from ODIs. Kohli now has the time to set the limited-overs squads in order like the Test side.
All we need to do is be a bit more patient with Kohli and yes, settle that debate for once on who is in charge, the captain or the coach.
(Chandresh Narayanan is ex-cricket writer for The Times of India, The Indian Express, ex-Media Officer for ICC and current media manager of Delhi Daredevils. He is also the author of World Cup Heroes, Cricket Editorial consultant, professor and cricket TV commentator.)