The ICC Champions Trophy is scheduled to start off from the 1st of June and defending champions India commence their title defence with a game against arch rivals, Pakistan on the 4th of June at Edgbaston. Generally the ICC tournaments are preceded with a couple of warm up games for all the participating nations and the ICC Champions Trophy is no different. India played their last warm up game against Bangladesh today and ran away as the resounding winners beating their neighbors by a massive 240-run margin. However, in a warm-up game the margin or even the result of the game is not much of significance but the performance of the players in it. The performance of the Indian lot over the two warm-up games they played (they played New Zealand two days back) will surely cause some selection headache for captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble. So here is Sport-O-Hooked’s probable XI who will face Pakistan.
If there is one area which would be the easiest to pick, it is the top order of India’s batting. Even though Rohit Sharma failed to spend time at the crease today, one would not bet against him facing the new ball against Pakistan. Ajinkya Rahane could have challenged him for a spot but his poor run of form continued and left much to be desired off. Joining Rohit would be Shikhar Dhawan at the other end whose resurgence to form continued with a fine 50 against Bangladesh. At the fall of the wicket, one would expect none other than captain Virat Kohli who comes off the back of a well made 50 against the Kiwis.
The conundrum starts from the number 4 position. Normally Yuvraj Singh is the man donning the responsibility at the heart of India’s middle order. But the all rounder who made his debut in the Champions Trophy is not 100% currently and may miss the opener. Dinesh Karthik cashed in on the opportunity with a well made 94 before being called back by the management. With no disrespect to the opposition, Karthik has had his problems with English conditions before against good bowling as New Zealand showed the other day. So we promote Kedar Jadhav to number 4. He has been in fine form in India colours and we would hope he continues his merry ways. At number 5, we expect Mahendra Singh Dhoni to walk in as he did in the previous warm-up game. Hardik Pandya has been in a purple patch with the bat of late and he continued his ways with an unbeaten 80 off 54 balls today, finishing off India’s innings in style. That finishing role will be expect from the young lad throughout the tournament and he should be India’s number 6.
India are blessed to have two fine spinners who can be quite reliable with the bat at number 7 and 8. Ravindra Jadeja has shown his prowess with the bat during India’s home test season and he would be expected to whack the ball around during the death overs. Ravichandran Ashwin is more than useful with the bat and possesses a technique that should hold him in good stead against the swinging ball in England. One feels India have not utilised Ashwin’s batting abilities in coloured clothes as well as that in white stripes. Should India lose quick wickets, Ashwin is someone who could be promoted to face the swinging ball and keep one end held up. Both Jadeja and Ashwin were instrumental with the ball last time around and one would for similar performances if not better from them. Bhuvneshwar Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav are Sport-O-Hooked’s preferences to shoulder the pace bowling responsibilities against Pakistan with Jasprit Bumrah missing out. Bumrah has been in fine form and is one of the best in international cricket during the death overs. But swinging the ball is of primary importance in England with the overcast weather around and Bumrah loses footing in this field. All of Bhuvi, Shami and Umesh are also capable in reversing the ball when the shine wears away and are also pretty good in the death. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been very good in the death as he showed during the recently concluded Indian Premier League.
We, at Sport-O-Hooked wish Team India best of luck for the Champions Trophy.
Sport-O-Hooked’s India XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (C), Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav.