India will be coming into the tournament as favourites. This will be Virat Kohli’s first big competition as captain and as defending champions, India will be expected to go deep in the tournament. India’s squad is relatively unchanged from the previous Champions Trophy and includes the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja who were top run-scorer and leading wicket-taker respectively in 2013.
This is arguably India’s best limited overs bowling attack in recent history, with three out of four of India’s pace bowlers featuring in the IPL’s top ten wicket-takers. The reliable Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s place in the XI is likely to be under contention with Umesh Yadav’s pace and Jasprit Bumrah’s variations. Yet as leading wicket taker in the IPL, the selectors will have a hard time keeping Bhuvneshwar out, especially as he took three wickets in each of the the warm-up matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh.
India’s batting line-up is much more fixed. It’s so jam-packed with quality top-order batsmen and power-hitters that Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik may struggle to find a spot in the starting XI even though Rohit Sharma has been unable to score and Karthik retired on 94 against Bangladesh today. India haven’t played an ODI since their series at home against England in January but they will feel confident with such an established team going into the competition. Their biggest potential issue may be a lack of confidence coming in from the IPL where only Dhawan made the list of top 10 run-scorers.
Opponents and Key Tactics
India will start their campaign in an eagerly anticipated game against Pakistan at Edgbaston, followed by games against Sri Lanka and South Africa respectively at the Kia Oval.
India hold a big psychological advantage over Pakistan when it comes to major competitions. They have dominated Pakistan in ICC events, winning 11 out of 13 games, and playing off that could work to their advantage even though both wins for Pakistan came in Champions Trophy tournaments. India should aim to bat first – which would be good for Virat Kohli given his lack of form in the IPL as it would allow him to play without the added pressure of the required rate – and set a big total for Pakistan. Both Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will play key roles in this game given the location, and if India can pick up a few early wickets they will be well on their way to the play-offs.
Sri Lanka are coming in as one of the least favoured sides. India should aim for a big win here, should qualification come down to net run rate, given that their third game will come against a strong South African side. Sri Lanka’s main issue is their brittle middle-order batting and India would do well to put pressure on them from the outset by bowling first. India will hopefully be confident after a win against Pakistan and with the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, they should feel comfortable chasing down any score against this Sri Lankan attack and in particular Lasith Malinga, whose career ODI bowling average jumps from 27.77 to 42.28 against India, as they have done so many times before.
This will be India’s biggest challenge in the group stages. ICC’s number one ranked ODI team have a strong and settled side. South Africa’s biggest weakness is the tournament itself. They have a history of poor chases and if India can set a big total as they did in the 2015 World Cup they will have a huge advantage. The last thing India will want to do is allow Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and that explosive middle order free rein with the bat. South Africa’s bowling attack will be a big concern for India in early summer English conditions, especially if Kohli struggles to play off his 4th and 5th stump, but if the top-order can find some rhythm in the first two games they will be in with a big chance.
Recent ODI performances:
India have had some close games against New Zealand and England with the most recent series going in their favour 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. However, both series were played in India and the last time India played outside of their home country was in August against the West Indies. This may be a problem for India given how early in the English season this tournament is.
The last time India played an ODI in England was in 2014 where they won the series 3-1 with some comprehensive wins. Kumar and Rahane did especially well in Edgbaston and Raina should feel unlucky given his IPL performance and success in 2014. Even though this was almost three years ago, the visitors should feel comfortable coming into the tournament having won their last series in the host country.
Team India are serious contenders to defend their title. They have match-winning players and have a knack for ICC tournaments. If the team can find some momentum in the first game and can adjust to the conditions quickly they’ll be well on their way to their third title.
1. Rohit Sharma
2. Shikhar Dhawan
3. Virat Kohli (c)
4. Yuvraj Singh
5. MS Dhoni (wk)
6. Kedar Jadhav/Dinesh Karthik
7. Hardik Pandya
8. Ravindra Jadeja
9. Mohammed Shami/Bhuvneshwar Kumar