ICC Champions Trophy Team Preview - Balanced combination keeps India in good stead
Virat Kohli will be leading India for the first time in an ICC tournament
The defending champions India will once again head into ICC Champions Trophy as one of the top contender but this time with a much more balanced squad to combat English conditions.
They played their last One-Day International in January when they defeated England 2-1 and was the last team to name the squad for the tournament after a tussle between International Cricket Council and Board of Control for Cricket in India. Nevertheless, they have most of their players from the squad that won the trophy in 2013 at the same venue where they defeated England by five runs in a rain shortened 20 over game.
With injury to Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan - the leading run-scorer in the 2013 edition has been given another chance to redeem himself along with Rohit Sharma, who was elevated to the vice-captaincy role replacing Ajinkya Rahane. Rohit had a long injury lay-off and looked scratchy at the first half of the Indian Premier League but gained confidence as the tournament progressed while Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni will bolster the middle order with captain Kohli stressing on the importance of the experienced duo to bat with freedom.
The most pleasing part for the Indian team will be their balance in the pace attack. Umesh Yadav has grown in stature since his last visit to England while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will be riding on confidence after their performance in Indian Premier League and not to forget India's best bowler when on song - Mohammad Shami. It will also be interesting to see on whether the team management will prefer having two spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin over a seam bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya, who can be handy with the bat low down the order as well.
Performances In Past Editions:
India have the highest win percentage in the history of the tournament after winning 15 out of 23 games. They were joint winners in 2002 with Sri Lanka where rain played spoilsport in the final and also won the recent most tournament in 2013 in England.
India were also runner-up in 2000 edition when they lost to New Zealand and were semi-finalists in the inaugural edition in 1998.
Player To Watch Out For:
MS Dhoni will be hoping to play with more freedom
MS Dhoni - He surprised everyone with his retirement in the longer format of the game with an intention to prolong his limited overs career with the 2019 World Cup in mind. However, his decision to step down from the role ahead of the ODI series against England in January has raised questions about his availability until the mega event in England. There is still a chance that the Jharkhand wicket-keeper batsman might sign off from his international career at the end of the tournament. Nevertheless, with the bat and the wicket-keeping glove, he will without doubt be a key performer for India.
India-Pakistan clash is the highly anticipated game of the tournament
India completed a comfortable victory over New Zealand in their first warm-up game and are lined up to take on Bangladesh in their second practice fixture before heading to Edgbaston for their first game of the tournament.
4th June v Pakistan at Edgbaston
8th June v Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval
11th June v South Africa at Kennington Oval
Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Dinesh Karthik
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