Whatever the circumstances of the final, India’s triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy must rank as something special. For a side rebuilt after the success of the 2011 World Cup — only three survivors remain from the team that won in Mumbai — it is a remarkable achievement. Credit must go to M.S. Dhoni, the captain — and as the oldest player in a young side, now a leader in every sense of the word — for steering his men with poise through the competition. The win now also underscores the strong relationship between the team and its coach Duncan Fletcher. India’s performance over the two weeks, commanding for the most part, now bodes thrillingly well for the 2015 World Cup, with the nucleus of the team likely to stay the same. In Shikhar Dhawan, the Player of the Series, India discovered an opener once thought lost to international cricket. The left-hander has batted, to quote a former Indian opener and coach, “as if in a Ranji Trophy game,” stunning opponents who knew little of him. The Player of the Final, Ravindra Jadeja, once mocked as a bits-and-pieces cricketer, has matured into a capable all-rounder with the knack of taking wickets at the most critical moments. The off-spinner R. Ashwin and the medium-pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meanwhile, impressed with a string of consistent performances. India also unveiled a fierce fielding unit, arguably the best in the world. There are no liabilities in the field anymore; as Jadeja remarked, there is no need to hide anyone.
India’s victory achieves extra significance against the backdrop of a turbulent period for cricket at home. The IPL fixing controversy and the subsequent wrangling in the BCCI battered the image of the sport in the country. The players left for the U.K. with the matter still mushrooming, and it would have been easy to be distracted. This result comes as a relief, although the administration still needs to set its house in order. Victory on the field, achieved by talented cricketers, should not be used by the PR agents of the BCCI to give the Indian Board a clean chit. Meanwhile, the last edition of a Champions Trophy — barring an astonishing U-turn by the ICC — has been a surprisingly successful tournament, both in terms of public appeal and the quality of the competition. It is an event that has struggled for relevance and would already have been shelved but for commercial considerations. If there is criticism, it has to be over the decision to settle the final by a 20-over contest. But the packed international calendar only allowed the ICC an 18-day-window into which to squeeze 15 matches; there could be no reserve day. It might have taken a T20, but India has asserted its status as the world No.1 ODI side.