In the eye of a billion dreams

High on confidence after a tri-nation series victory in Sri Lanka, a week before the start of ICC Champions Trophy, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows what it takes to compete with some of the world’s best ODI sides.

In terms of variety and team composition, India seem to have almost every thing to give them a chance to win back the Champions Trophy which they jointly shared with Sri Lanka in rain-drenched Colombo in 2002.

India’s biggest strength lies in their batting and Sachin Tendulkar is back to his best after a masterful century in the tri-series final against Lanka on September 14. Rahul Dravid, back in the side after two years, has already displayed how technique and defence play key roles in the 50-over game. Both Tendulkar and Dravid add a cooling effect on the team as well.

And, there is no shortage of firework, even if Virender Sehwag is missing from the squad due to injury. Gautam Gambhir should be fit enough to give India a blitzkrieg start while India have in Yuvraj Singh and skipper MS Dhoni to consolidate in the middle overs.

In the absence of Zakeer Khan, senior offie Harbhajan Singh is all eager to spearhead India’s attack. Bhajji showed his intensity while grabbing a 5-wicket haul against the Sri Lankans in the Compaq Cup final. However, on South African tracks, the tall and lanky Ishant Sharma should be able to bowl in the right areas and Dhoni will expect Ashish Nehra, RP Singh and Praveen Kumar to play ideal foils.


BATTING: Gambhir, Tendulkar, Dravid (highest scorer for India in Champions Trophy after Sourav Ganguly with 547 runs at 49.72), Yuvraj, Dhoni and not to forget the hitting abilities of young Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan make for a complete line-up. If this line-up acclimatizes itself with the playing and weather conditions in Johannesburg and Centurion, batting should not be a concern even though at this time of the year, fresh pitches in South Africa offer more assistance to the faster bowlers, generally a nemesis for Indian batsmen.

SPIN BOWLING: One of the good byproducts of T20 cricket or the IPL is the rise of part-time slow bowlers like Yuvraj, Raina and Pathan in the current limited overs setup. Not only can they bowl economically and go through their overs quickly, they can entice settled batsmen to throw their wickets. Together with the wicket-taking ability of Harbhajan, the Indian slow bowling department looks quite a handful.


FIELDING: "Our fielding standards, compared to the ones we had in Australia in 2007, is now very different...” -- Dhoni’s statement in a pre-tournament press conference is testimony to the fact that the fielding of Team India has gone down tremendously in recent times.This calls for upping the ante by the younger blokes like Raina, Gambhir and RP Singh and the likes Yuvraj, who now fields at mid-on or mid-off and not the customary backward point position owing to his knee concerns.

PACE BOWLING: Usually a facet which remains a strength for many of the participating teams like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, the pace bowing department is arguably weaker than it looks. Ishant, aiming to test the opposition batsmen with timely bouncers in this series, does not have an impressive economy rate (5.66) while Nehra, RP and Praveen can be very erratic at times.

Sachin Tendulkar: His hunger for runs never ceases. The in-form master blaster will again cherish the job of giving flying starts in the absence of Virender Sehwag. In 14 Champions Trophy matches, Tendulkar has scored 433 runs at 39.96 with a best of 141 against Australia in Dhaka in 1998.

Yuvraj Singh: When in good form, his sheer presence at the crease can torment the opposition captain, as he makes batting looks smooth and easy with free flowing drives and lofted shots that easily clear the ground. And don’t forget his six 6s in South Africa during the inaugural T20 World Cup.
MS Dhoni: Not the best of starters, Dhoni tries to bat through the innings and score quick runs in the slog overs after accumulating them through ones and twos during the middle overs.

Harbhajan Singh: Indian’s main bowling weapon in the middle overs enjoys a great economy rate in Champions Trophy (3.64) along with 11 wickets in 10 matches at a bowling average of 32.45.

Champions Trophy record

Altogether with nine wins and five losses, India, in the 16 matches (including the 2 no-results final of the 2002 edition) of the Champions Trophy, enjoy a success rate of 64.28 in this 50-over tournament.

FULL SQUAD: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Kartik, Gautam Gambhir, Abhishek Nayar, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, RP Singh.


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