Indian cricket was so dependent on big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman at one point of time, that most people became sceptical of the team's fate when they hang up their boots. The retirement of Dravid and Tendulkar in quick successions was a big blow to the confidence of the team but it took form sooner than most expected.
Much to the delight of fans, Indian cricket evolved into a formidable team with the youngsters shouldering the responsibilities quite capably, making the fans forget the absence of senior players and openers - Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. In fact, India have found dependable openers in Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who will now make the past routine openers hard to claim their place.
The solid performance throughout the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 is a testament of Indian cricket evolution as a formidable team and perhaps an indication of possible dominance in the world of cricket for a while, as most players are young with many more years of cricket left in them.
Shikhar Dhawan is perhaps the find of the tournament. He scored back-to-back centuries before giving an important knock in the rain-affected match against arch rivals Pakistan and scoring a half century in the semi-final, taking the total score to 332, which is highest in the tournament with the second highest run scorer - Kumar Sangakkara - 110 runs behind him. He is relatively inexperienced in international cricket but he looked poised and fearless at the crease, cutting the deliveries of experienced bowlers to the fence at ease.
Rohit Sharma took up the challenge of opening the innings for India and did pretty well throughout the tournament. Besides scoring two half centuries, he along with Dhawan ensured a good start for the team, letting Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni play their aggressive game. Looking at the current form of the team, no total will be too big for them.
The young players have in a way changed the approach of the game with the way they fearlessly face some of the world's biggest bowlers. In the past, Indian cricketers, including some of the biggest names, were targeted with short deliveries and bouncers. They were not much better against spinners than fast bowlers. But that's passé now with the youngsters playing short balls quite well. Interestingly, they seem to have a liking for bouncers, as they send most of such deliveries to the ropes.
Besides batsmen, the bowlers deserve special mention. Many might have considered them as the weak link of team India. They may not enjoy the kind of respect that their counterparts from Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and even England got at the start of the tournament but they proved everybody wrong with their disciplined spells. Ravindra Jadeja has taken 10 wickets in four matches besides contributing with his bat, which is commendable. Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin have also been impressive throughout the tournament. If the batsmen are curry, the bowlers are salt.
In a nutshell, the way India convincingly sailed into the finals is commendable, irrespective of whether they win the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 or not. Having not conceded any defeat en route to the final, they are no doubt the favourites to win the title match against England on Sunday. Perhaps India have not looked so confident in a long time.