Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where Heroes become C H A M P I O N S...

The Champions Trophy fever is catching up. This is the last edition of the tournament (quite rightly). You can’t have more than one champion in the same format of the game.

Australia, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand are grouped in one pool. While India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka in the other.

On paper it appears Australia and England will qualify from one pool in that order. India and South Africa will qualify from another pool in that order. I’m directly getting into business rather analyzing good and bad of all 8 sides and slowly narrow down to the 4 sides that are likely to make the cut. Guess what… this is Champions Trophy. Things happen pretty quickly here. Unlike the boring World Cup where it takes one month of play time before we know whom we already knew will make the cut anyway.

So, is it safe to assume India Vs England and South Africa Vs Australia Semi Finals?
I wish cricket is that simple and results show up as we walk the talk. In any case, I find it difficult to think past these four sides to qualify for Semi Finals.

So, who will be champions of this ultimate edition?
Blame my nationality, it is tempting to dream India Vs Australia finals with India winning the last edition of the event. But India, England, South Africa & Australia all look very good on paper and I guess one among the four will win this edition.

Let’s do little analysis of Bowling & Batting department for each of these teams.

England bowling don't appear lethal. Wood, Willey, Woakes, Rashid, Stokes, Plunkett, Ali don’t appear to have the potent to seal the deal for England. Neither of their pacers are popular for express pace or swing bowling or death bowling. Even Ali/Rashid are not known for many match winning spells for their slow bowling.

South Africa bowling comprises Rabada, Morkel, Morris, Tahir, Duminy, Maharaj. This unit certainly look better than England. Not sure Morkel is still in his prime, Rabada is still very young. Tahir is probably at his peak.  It is disappointing not to see steaming Steyn leading the bowling quadrant. The bowling unit is ok, but not great.

Australia - Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson are simply fantastic. Assuming 3 play and 1 sit out, Australia has the luxury to rotate and keep their fast bowlers fresh. Henriques, Maxwell, Zampa should be good compliment. Zampa could end up being their weak link. But you never know.

India - Shami, Yadav, B Kumar, Bumrah, Pandya, Jadeja, Ashwin offers a good variety  compared to the other 3 teams. Shami & Yadav are known for pace, Kumar for swing, Bumrah for death bowling, Ashwin & Jadeja are at peak of their slow bowling careers. With Pandya’s compliment, India’s arguably the no.1 bowling side on paper.

I prefer to rate India, Australia, South Africa and England in that order in the bowling department.

India - Rohit, Dhawan/Rahane, Kohli, Yuvi, Karthik, Dhoni, Pandya... will be the lineup for most of the games. It’s been an established unit for quiet sometime, but there is sure cloud cover over. Yuvi’s form is patchy, Rahane’s is awful (I doubt he will be a default starter in the XI), Dhoni’s finishing skills is under question, with Dhawan only god knows how he is able to get so many amount of opportunities despite repeated failures, Rohit Sharma has been out of action for a while. Kohli and Jadav are in form players at the moment (I discount their IPL form). However, Dinesh Karthik comes into scene after tremendous success in the domestic season. Can he translate his domestic success to international success? Only time will tell. I would have preferred an inspired selection of Pant over Dhawan or even Rahane. As I said, lots of cloud cover over India’s batting.

England - Roy, Hales, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Ali will make up the batting department. The ODI side has been doing well under Morgan in the past few years.

Australia - Warner, Finch, Lynn/Head, Smith, Maxwell, Henriques should make up the batting mainstay. Warner, Lynn and Maxwell are all ticking time bombs. This unit appears to be the most dangerous of all the 4.

South Africa - Amla, De Kock, Duplessis, DeVilliers, Duminy, Miller, Morris reads a dream team. This is probably the best batting side of all the 4.

My ratings would be - South Africa, Australia, England & India in that order in the batting department.

But then result of the game is dependent on all units (batting/bowling/fielding) working in sync. So to punt on a single side to win this edition of the event is difficult. However, I personally see England weakest of the four (considering batting & bowling).

India look great on bowling while South Africa on batting and Australia looks dangerous in both fronts.

Statistically, odds are stacked heavily against South Africa to win an ICC event (unless South Africa decides to rewrite history this time).

It’s got to be India or Australia.

Bottom line: Let me shout "India" for now.


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