The ICC Champions Trophy is scheduled to begin today (June 1, 2017), hosted by England and Wales.
It is a One-Day International (ODI) Cricket Tournament organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC), second in significance only to the Cricket World Cup.
The idea behind its launch in 2002 was to bring together the top eight teams biannually, over a knock-out tournament.
Over its course of history, it has also changed name to ICC Champions Trophy to muster more prominence.
However, its popularity and interest remain low, and this edition of the tournament may very well be the final one.
Although India is scheduled to host it next in 2021, the ICC intends to start an ODI League in 2019, which would effectively replace the need to have the Champions Trophy.
Windies fail to qualify
A once dominant West Indies, who won the trophy the last time it was held in England in 2004, did not qualify for the tournament after failing to make the top-eight in the ICC ODI Rankings by 30 September 2015.
In their place, unpredictable Bangladesh will return to the tournament after an eleven-year absence.
India teased the organisers for the past few months with a possible withdrawal from the event. However, post the uncertainty of participation, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cleared India’s participation after choosing to resume its much-desired cordial relationship with ICC.
As expected, Virat Kohli will lead India’s 15-man squad, aiming to retain the Trophy.
India, along with Australia, have won the trophy twice each. England have been runners-up twice, both times while playing host. History will be pressuring them to go one better this time, and their current team is certainly up to it.
Barring Joe Root, they boast no big names but work very well as a collective unit and have troubled every big team over the past two years.
India continues to be in a dominant position heading to England. Its commanding middle order comprises Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, all proven match winners and masterclass in their own right.
Coming back from injury, Kohli has been in good form and India will be hoping for that continuity. Singh is in the zone where he belongs, after slamming a ton against England in the ODI series back home. Dhoni has been in supreme touch.
However, the opening pair is where there should be genuine concern for India.
Rohit Sharma makes an international return after a very long injury layoff, whereas Shikar Dhawan is not quite the fiery batsman he once was.
Ajinkya Rahane has been tried too but he is not the one to bank upon as an opener. He is a brilliant middle order player.
The loss of early wickets has plagued India in the recent past.
Dhoni would be promoted up the order.
English pitches are notorious for making the ball swing dangerously.
This can play to India’s strength or weaknesses depending on their adaptability. Indian openers have more often than not been troubled on English pitches early in an innings.
If the batsmen can negotiate this, then bowlers Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah can capitalise on the conditions given swing bowling is their speciality.
The flamboyant Hardik Pandya as a seam-bowling all-rounder has matured very quickly. He may be the dark horse of the tournament.
As for Dhoni, India winning the trophy will be a befitting swansong to his fabulous career.
Virat Kohli(c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.