In another huge upset, Pakistan beat Ireland
The world of cricket, it seems, has turned on its head. After four years of losing to their neighbours, rank underdog, India, put one past the "Tigers". It will be wrong to say, nobody saw this coming - in the build up to the World Cup, the Indian selectors finally relented and dropped Ravindra Jadeja, who had played 58 matches without scoring a fifty or taking a single wicket. To Jadeja's credit, whenever he was on the verge of being dropped from the Indian team, the Indian Premier League (IPL) came calling, where he scored the odd 30 and grabbed the even odder wicket. Critics feel it is Jadeja's criticism that has kept him in the team for so long - everyone knows how Dhoni likes to prove his critics and the media wrong. Often when the selectors suggested dropping Jadeja, Dhoni countered that for that to happen, they would have to drop him, Suresh Raina, Mohit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey and Ravichandran Ashwin as well. Dhoni went on to elaborate: "It's a package deal you see, if you drop Jadeja, you drop all of us". When one of the selectors cried, "CSK (Chennai Super Kings) conspiracy!", Dhoni snapped back by simply saying, "So shoot me!". The selector who is known to belong to the anti-Srini faction did take a shot at Dhoni, though with a water pistol. Cries of Happy Holi! filled the board room, Indian cricket swept its troubles under the carpet yet again.
After Jadeja's ouster, the picking of Ashish Nehra (also CSK, but it could no longer be held against him) had the most impact on the result. Nehra's opening spell of seven overs all but broke his back and the back of the Bangladeshi batting - and even though Nehra was dehydrated and vomited on the pitch (some feel the puke and not his bowling did the trick), his decision to bowl with a drip kept him going. Nehra dismissed all four batsmen after he threw up.
Virat Kohli's ascendancy as the one day international (ODI) captain in early 2019 is being downplayed but his rapport and like-mindedness with cricket director Ravi Shastri cannot be underestimated - their ability to communicate clearly and abusively was seen as a step in the right direction. Everyone knows Dhoni did not abuse much if at all and that was beginning to hamper communication with both his deputy and the director. And even though Kohli mocks Shastri's Bombaiya accent when the latter swears (ch***ya being an old favourite), the bonhomie between the two has been something to behold. In certain circles they are being referred to as "The Bombay-Delhi Highway". And the joke is, "It's my way or the Bombay-Delhi highway".
Not many are aware that Rahul Dravid held a preparatory camp with the Indian squad in England before the World Cup. The emphasis was to play out Bangladesh's most threatening bowler, Mustafizur Rahman (who has taken no less than five wickets in every India-Bangladesh ODI since his debut on June 18, 2015). Dravid worked extensively on the backfoot play of the openers - both Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan were barred from leaving the crease except for the hourly toilet break. In addition to conducting workshops on mind control for the whole team, Dravid had his Rajasthan Royals colleague and coach, Paddy Upton, pen down his observations in a notebook. The notes that Upton has diligently made are being seen as the key to the Royals' success over the years - "Notes can only get you to the knockout stage, after that, it's up to your own resolve," he remarked. Private sessions with Rohit Sharma and Indian commentators are being credited for the player no longer being referred to as "Talented" and finally living up to his potential. This is being seen as a major breakthrough, up there with the axing of both Jadeja and Axar Patel. "Trolls no longer use that T-word on Twitter. Though I am not too fond of the finished article, I can live with it," Rohit told his media manager and wife, Ritika Sajdeh. She failed to hide her nervousness and proceeded to bite both her own and Rohit's nails.
Uncannily, in what many are seeing as a reverse upset of the 2007 World Cup, a weakened Pakistan (hit hard by last minute retirements and recruitments) beat a formidable Ireland. The Irish coach was safe, though security outside his room has been beefed up.
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)
First published here