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Redemption doesn’t come much sweeter
Dileep Premachandran  8th Jun 2013

Ravindra Jadeja

S Dhoni's musical tastes probably don't extent to the legendary Johnny Cash, but there's definitely something of the country singer's philosophy in the way he approaches his cricket. "You build on failure," said Cash once. "You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

Whether it's a 0-4 defeat or a 4-0 triumph, Dhoni doesn't get carried away. For him, the focus is always on what lies ahead. Without that sort of man in charge, India cricket might still have been treading water, clinging on tight to the driftwood of a generation whose best years were behind them. Instead, the side that arrived at the Champions Trophy was mix of the relatively experienced, the callow and those that thought their time might never come.

Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from one-day international cricket in December, five of those that played the World Cup final in 2011 are still playing. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan were very much available for selection for this tournament. By choosing not to call them up, Dhoni and the selection panel made it very clear that the priority was to build a team with the best chance of retaining the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. Shikhar Dhawan's match winning century against South Africa in Cardiff came in only his sixth ODI. Rohit Sharma, who he added 127 with, was very much a makeshift opening option, given the chance to redeem himself after a string of middle-order failures. Dinesh Karthik, in scintillating form in the warm-up matches, hadn't played for India since August 2010.

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As part of the World Twenty20 team in 2009, fans at Lord’s booed him after his inability to score quickly sent India tumbling out of the competition against England. As he stroked and clubbed his way to 47 from just 29 balls against South Africa, the cheers got progressively louder.

hese were all men with something to prove, those who wanted to show that they were worthy of the limelight after years on the fringe. And what could you say of Ravindra Jadeja? As part of the World Twenty20 team in 2009, fans at Lord's booed him after his inability to score quickly sent India tumbling out of the competition against England. As he stroked and clubbed his way to 47 from just 29 balls against South Africa, the cheers got progressively louder. By the end, they were ready to serenade him. Redemption doesn't come much sweeter.

Dhoni has repeatedly asked for patience on behalf of such players and he should be listened to. The golden generation gave Indian cricket so much to be proud of, but their time has come and gone. As the team charts a new direction, there's little to be gained by looking back. Already, the improvement in the field has been eye-catching. On Thursday, India were in no way inferior to South Africa, who have often set the standard. It could be argued that the match itself turned on Jadeja's brilliant dive, stop, gather and throw that ended the 124-run partnership between Robin Peterson and AB de Villiers.

Dhawan dominated the highlights reels though. As hard as he hits the ball, there's an elegance and timing to his best work that brings back memories of Sourav Ganguly in his prime. Whether it was the left-arm pace of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, or the spin of JP Duminy, Dhawan would saunter down the pitch and drive with a confidence that suggested he was having a net.

"I just watch the ball and play the ball and enjoy watching my partners' batting," said Dhawan after the match. "I enjoyed running between the wickets and I enjoy taking the pressure."

If you ignored the pirate-like earring and the Chambal-dacoit moustache, it could so easily have been Sehwag speaking – a throwback to the past in times of change.

 
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