Champions Trophy Preview: India

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Going into the Champions Trophy, India are arguably one of the favourites for the tournament alongside the likes of England, Australia, etc. The defending champions surprised everyone by winning the tournament in 2013, considering the team and the conditions. They are much better off this time but there are still some questions that need answering.

Strengths

At first glance, it’s hard to ignore the top heavy batting lineup with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli. All three of them have hit form of some sort during the ongoing IPL and will be pretty confident going into the tournament given their positive records in limited overs cricket in England. There’s also Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey, who are likely to be backups to the first-choice batsmen.

The other obvious strength is in the spin department, with India boasting two of the world’s best spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin didn’t take part in the IPL since he has been recovering from a hernia and Jadeja hasn’t hit top form with the ball in this IPL. Despite this both will be confident given their consistently excellent form with the ball over the past 18 months There’s not a certainty as to whether both spinners will play and that’s likely to be determined by the conditions. They will have a key role to play if India are to succeed and in the Champions Trophy in 2013, both were vital cogs in helping India win the tournament with Jadeja being anointed as the Man of the Tournament. It will be interesting to see how effective they can be in England, looking at the trend of scores in England being close to 350, on a lot of occasions.

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In what isn’t exactly usual, India have a competent and inform fast bowling line up. Umesh Yadav has come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months or so, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will cause a lot of problems with the new ball. Jasprit Bumrah is a consistent wicket taker and is India’s best death bowler with the ability to bowl yorkers at will. All three are in very good form, and there is also Mohammad Shami who has always done very well when fit. The bowling line up hasn’t always been India’s strength but this time around, they are more than dependable and will be key to any success India have during the tournament.

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Weaknesses

The game has moved on so much that we are here to ask if MS Dhoni, one of the game’s greatest finishers, can still prove to be decisive in the final overs, on the batting friendly pitches in England. The par scores have been very high generally in the last couple of years, so it is imperative that India finish innings off, well. Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni aren’t exactly in their prime and do not possess the same hitting power as in previous years. Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya have done pretty well in that aspect but both have played most of their international cricket only in the subcontinent. They lack experience and that could be a possible weakness in the batting. The lack of a genuine hitting power, someone of the ilk of England’s Jos Buttler, could prove to be the undoing for India. Also, Ravichandran Ashwin will have been out of cricket for a couple of months by the time the tournament starts and it remains to be seen if there is any rustiness.

Key player

 

It’s hard to look beyond the captain, Virat Kohli, who will lead India for the first time in an ICC tournament. He has done exceedingly well as the Test captain and has an astonishing record of winning every series as a full-time captain so far in the longer format. India currently hold the trophy against every major Test-playing nation – something which is a very rare feat. He is already considered to be one of the best limited overs batsmen to play the game and he will be vital if India are to retain the trophy they won in 2013. He will have experienced heads like MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh to guide him and Kohli will definitely look to win an ICC tournament as a captain at the first time of asking.

Likely XI

  1. Shikhar Dhawan
  2. Rohit Sharma
  3. Virat Kohli (C)
  4. Yuvraj Singh
  5. MS Dhoni (WK)
  6. Kedar Jadhav
  7. Hardik Pandya
  8. Ravichandran Ashwin
  9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
  10. Umesh Yadav
  11. Jasprit Bumrah

Can India Win It?

In a group consisting of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa, you would expect India to make the semi-final, at least. India’s experienced batting line up needs to fire and the bowling line up must live up to its expectations. They certainly can win the tournament and are better equipped do so, compared to 2013, when they went all the way. However, India may just fall short because of their lack of genuine hitting power and dependency on the top order.

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