The Indian Express
Source: The Indian Express

How competitive has cricket become?

This is one question that strikes me looking at this year’s Champions Trophy. Look at Group A, one of the most competitive and consistent sides in world cricket Australia have been knocked out of the tournament without a single win! While you may excuse them, saying Mother Nature didn’t favour them but looking at their two tied encounters, they were about to lose to New Zealand and a possible victory against Bangladesh would have garnered them only two points which they already have!

And what do I say about Bangladesh? They have been the phoenix in international cricket haven’t they? Once having been written off, being considered minnows, they’ve entered the tournament ranking 6th in the ICC ODI rankings and have played even better than that, defeating ODI giants New Zealand and entering the Semi finals with a puffed chest!

Moving onto Group B, these fixtures probably increase the significance of the question we began with manifold times, with their matches being less rain marred than Group A, no team has yet qualified for the semi-finals but that also means no team has been un-defeated. It has all narrowed down to the 11th and 12th of June. While one of the consummate teams, Australia have been knocked out, one of either the defending Champions India or world no.1 ranked ODI side South Africa will be the next to catch a flight back home.

The Weather

While the egregious dark clouds have openly expressed their love for Group B matches, interfering yet allowing each of them to completion, June 11th is going to be no different. There is no prediction of any game threatening rain, and it should be safe to say that we have are going to have a full game, and a clash worthy a virtual quarterfinal.

Ashwin
Is it time to bring back R.Ashwin?

Will Ashwin be brought out of the incubator?

Its high time that Kohli calls India’s premier bowler back on the field. With Jadeja and Pandya being milched for runs by the Sri Lankan batsmen, it’s only fair to bring Ashwin to rescue to the team. Though the pitches support the pacers, Ashwin’s inclusion wouldn’t be illogical. The South African batting line up boasts of three left handed batsmen namely De Kock, Duminy and Miller and Ashwin could prove lethal to them. Besides even on non-spinning tracks Ashwin has natural variation, an intelligent alteration in length and his stock ball the off-spinner.

If Ashwin walks in who goes out?

Ashwin’s entry is surely not going to come at Jadeja’s cost, considering his fielding heroics, lethality with the ball on good days and how handy he could be with the bat Jadeja sitting out doesn’t make sense. While Hardik Pandya too is needed for pinch hitting and dibly dobly bowling, Ashwin will probably be swapped at the expense of Umesh Yadav or Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, as Bumrah and his Yorkers would be a key to curtailing runs and striking at death.

Amla
(REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

Super,Batman and Antman

It will be a test of skill and temperament for both the teams. The one’s who would be under scrutiny the most would be Superman and Batman of world cricket AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli. For June 11 is going to portray a dawn of justice on field, but this time only one will make the cut. Their team’s fate will be very much dependent on how these two perform in the game. While De Villiers has looked out of touch, failing twice and having not so impressive performances against England either scoring 46, 50, 30* in three games, so a big innings is still pending.

While Kohli had a good outing against Pakistan, a miserable failure against Sri Lanka and similar trends in recent times pose a question over his consistency, India would expect Kohli to fire to brighten their chances.

In all this hype one of the smartest, fluent and technically sound superhero misses out for he is under-rated. You may stereotype Hashim Amla as a test batsmen but watch out his stats are way too similar to Kohli, including his strike rate! In fact he has reached to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, and 6000 runs faster than Kohli. So watch out for the Antman!

Tahir

Slow opening and Tahir’s web

While there aren’t many complaints with India’s batting one thing is for sure that the openers have been slow in scoring runs. Though Kohli seemed happy with the batsmen he did feel a need to score briskly early on. Rohit Sharma had struggled reading the wrong un’s in the IPL, facing Imran Tahir will a test of his temperament.

The biggest strategy

The game promises to be exciting. But the biggest test is going to be of character. The team with the right attitude and a temperament to deal with pressure goes through. While it’s South Africa’s chance to roar out, shedding the chokers tag. India will be keen on stamping their authority as defending champions!

May the best one win!

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