2017 ICC Champions Trophy: India, Australia hot favourites to win tournament

31 May 2017, 02:00 PM

Defending champs India and two-time winners Australia shall start off as tournament favourites for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy in England. 

There are major off-field issues plaguing both teams but both India and the mighty Australians have enough firepower to go all the way and lift the coveted trophy.

Hosts England, who have shown amazing transformation as a potent limited-overs side, will be the 'Dark Horse' in the eight-team tournament where the once formidable West Indies are a notable absentee.

Hosts England will kickstart the tourney against minnows Bangladesh here tomorrow before the much-awaited rivalry between India and Pakistan on June 4.

However, the two teams that will enjoy maximum traction are surely going to be India and Australia in a tournament where one can expect high-scoring matches on good batting tracks.

Both teams have a fantastic blend of youth and experience, a must for 50-over cricket. Ironically, both teams have been in the news for reasons which aren't exactly cricketing to say the least.

While a rumoured rift between Indian captain Virat Kohli and chief coach Anil Kumble has been gaining ground since the past few days, the Australian team's payment dispute with their cricket board is out in the public domain.

Both teams will be starting their respective campaigns in such an uncomfortable backdrop, but they have quality players in their ranks, who will not let the controversies affect their game.

The Indian team has not displayed any signs of stress during their two warm-up matches which they won without breaking any sweat.

At the same time, Australia also came up with lively performances in their respective warm-up games. India have the perfect balance with 9 players from the victorious 2013 side retained.

It will be Kohli's first big test as captain in an ICC event and India's best batsman would like to shrug off his disappointing IPL form going into the tournament.

With Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and none other than Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the team's batting line up isthe most experienced among all the eight participating nations.     

The inexperienced Kedar Jadhav or the seasoned Dinesh Karthik are also good enough to win matches on their own.      All-rounder Hardik Pandya lends a good balance and for the first time, India have a four-pronged pace attack of Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.

World's premier spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are also there to stifle runs.

For Australia, the presence of David Warner, skipper Steve Smith and Aaron Finch gives the batting line-up a formidable look along with Glenn Maxwell in the middle order.     

The fast bowling attack bears a fearsome look with Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Marcus Stoinis is an all-rounder with the x-factor.

The team to watch out for could be England, which has made giant strides under Eoin Morgan's captaincy. In Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, they have two impactful openers.

Morgan's experience in the middle is invaluable and they have two of the best all-rounders in the game -- Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes.
Stokes, in particular, has seen his stocks soar to an all time high after a brilliant IPL.

He has already sounded a warning signal with a hundred in a warm-up game. However, there are some niggling injury issues which might hamper him from bowling his full quota of 10 overs.

Woakes, a bowling all-rounder known for his variation and change ups, could prove to be a handful in the familiar home conditions.

While England, India and Australia remain firm contenders for the semi-final slot, South Africa, with players like AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla in their ranks, cannot be discounted either.

First Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 01:51 PM
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