With some of the world’s top cricketers taking a break from national duty to serve their corporate masters during the April 7-May 27 Indian Premier League (IPL), people’s attention already seems to be shifting to the annual Twenty20 franchise tournament.
However, this is an opportune time to take stock of the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy, which was put together by Sri Lanka with the purpose of celebrating the country’s 70th independence anniversary.
Here are five takeaways from the tournament, which concluded on Sunday when India beat Bangladesh by four wickets.
India’s ‘rest and test’ plan a success
Given that India had just concluded an arduous tour of South Africa in January, it made sense for the national selectors to rest some of their stars and test their up-and-coming players. The plan worked. India proved they could win without regular captain Virat Kohli, former captain MS Dhoni, and their frontline seamers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. In their absence, Rohit Sharma proved to be an able leader, and one who got the best out of youngsters such as Washington Sundar, Jaidev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur. Rohit’s decision to send Dinesh Karthik in at No 7 in the final also proved a masterstroke as the wicketkeeper-batsman won the game off the last ball.
Bangladesh on the rise
For around two decades, it was safe to assume Asia’s three dominant teams included India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Since being given Test status in 2000, however, Bangladesh have forced an expansion of this elite club from three to four.
For years they were the whipping boys, losing 71 out of 72 completed matches from 1999 to 2004. Gradually, the wins started to come: against Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, against Australia in Australia in 2005, against India and South Africa at the 2007 World Cup. In recent times, they have been winning in other formats, too.
Having reached tournament finals such as the Asia Cup in 2014 and 2016, it is just a matter of time before they start lifting trophies in major tournaments.
… but players must learn to behave
There is a dark side to success, however, and that is hubris. For the past couple of years, some of Bangladesh's star players have begun to exert themselves, getting into verbal spats with opposition players and taking on umpires. They celebrated their win over Sri Lanka, a result that ensured they reached the Nidahas Trophy final, in poor taste. One of their players even broke the dressing room door. Not only will it cost them matches down the road, through the suspension of key players over indiscipline, it will damage their brand. That will be a shame.
Dinesh Karthik maintains his relevance
According to Rohit, Karthik was not happy when he was told he would be batting at No 7 in the final against Bangladesh. Perhaps provoked into indignation, the experienced wicketkeeper-batsman hit 29 off just eight balls, which included three sixes and two fours. His six off the last ball – showing calm in the face of a storm – proved Karthik, 32, has matured into a dependable player after 14 years of being in and out of the national team. As this newspaper noted, he did what Dhoni – who replaced Karthik as India’s No 1 keeper in 2004 – had done consistently over the past decade: finish a game. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Karthik is more likely to continue as an impact player in limited-overs cricket than to be Dhoni’s long-term replacement in all three formats of the game.
Sundar shows the way for finger spinners
Only 18 and with just one T20 international under his belt, there would have been doubts about how Sundar would fare in this series. But the off-spinner proved innovative in varying his pace and line. He was alert enough to read the batsmen, too. As a result, he took eight wickets from five games and was named man of the series. With fellow finger spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja struggling to get back in the side, and at a time when four of the five top-ranked bowlers in T20s are wrist spinners, Sundar showed how to succeed in the shortest format. But, paradoxically, he also made their comebacks even less likely, what with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav ahead in the pecking order.