India geared up for title defence

India appears well prepared to defend its title. The rich array of all-round players gives it the platform to explore and experiment as it tries to find a winning mix of players.

Virat Kohli has the ammunition to slay the best opponents and has shown the will and grit to do so.   -  Reuters

As defending champion, India will be the team to watch, the team under the maximum scrutiny in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. The event, often termed the mini World Cup, has its attraction and all the eight teams will surely give their best to win the coveted trophy.

ICC Champions Trophy schedule

India appears well prepared to defend its title. The rich array of all-round players gives it the platform to explore and experiment as it tries to find a winning mix of players. The team has few of the biggest stars in world cricket and it is just a matter of striking the right form at the right time for India to repeat its 2013 feat, when it won the title in England in a truncated final against the host.

The presence of Virat Kohli, M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh gives India a formidable trio, who can swing the contest with some individual brilliance. For Kohli this is going to be a stern test of his abilities. The Indian skipper, though suffering from a recent loss of form, does not need to prove his credentials at this stage of his career, but there is pressure on him to bring the trophy home.

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India has always proved a tremendous force at home and it is time for this team to change the impression by excelling away from the subcontinent. The 2013 triumph was based on a collective show and this is going to be the crucial factor if India is to win the tournament under Kohli’s leadership. He has the ammunition to slay the best opponents and has shown the will and grit to do so.

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Some critics believe that the Indian Premier League (IPL) provides the base for selection to the national side. However, the team picked for the Champions Trophy drew on its strength from the consistent performers in domestic cricket and not the IPL. The chairman of the National selection committee, M. S. K. Prasad, made it clear that the players were picked on the basis of their experience and domestic performances, and not just the IPL. The fact that Dinesh Karthik, an under-achiever of sorts, was recalled to the squad, indicated the importance of domestic cricket. Karthik got a look in for the talented Manish Pandey, who suffered a rib injury.

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Karthik was part of the squad that won the Champions Trophy in 2013. His last appearance had come at the Asia Cup in 2014, but he excelled this season with some fabulous show — 704 runs in the Ranji Trophy and 854 runs in the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy. The selectors rewarded him for his consistency and leadership qualities as he guided Tamil Nadu to title victories in both the 50-over tournaments.

This emphasis on consistency gives the Indian side a balanced look. Dhoni continues to be a driving force for the team. As a batsman-wicketkeeper, Dhoni ranks among the game’s greatest and he can deliver for the team in times of distress. Former India captain Kapil Dev has suggested the No. 4 batting slot for Dhoni and it won’t be a bad idea to experiment. Dhoni, with the reputation of being a fantastic finisher, would do well if he is given the time to settle and then guide the middle-order.

For Yuvraj, this would be an opportunity to extend his career. The selectors have placed faith in his experience and also his ability with the ball. His bowling was a clinching factor in India winning the 2011 World Cup and it might come in handy this time too as India banks on R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to handle the spin department. Ashwin keeps his place in the squad, but is short of match practice. His experience, however, should help him in exacting English conditions.

The squad

Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, M. S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.

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