Mahendra Singh Dhoni has it all – ICC WT20 title, ICC Cricket World Cup (50-over) – but one. He is yet to win the ICC Champions Trophy. On the other hand, England have won only one premier ICC tournament till date – the WT20 title. They have never won a major ICC 50-over competition.
England and India lock horns in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy on Sunday with an aim to lift the trophy that has eluded them both all these years. However, the latter can still claim to have won the title once when they were declared the joint winners along with Sri Lanka in 2002. Of course, they would have loved not to share the spoils with their island neighbour. Now, India have another chance to have a go at the title and their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be looking to complete his trophy cabinet with this final piece of silverware.
Alastair Cook, leading England in a major ICC tournament for the first time, will be eager to continue the good run and become the first skipper from his country to lift an ICC trophy in a 50-over competition. He must be confident to walk the extra mile this time because of the team that he has at his disposal and the imperious form that the English bowlers and batsmen have been in in this tourney. The last time England made it to the finals of this competition, West Indies stood in their way and handed them a heartbreaking defeat. Courtney Brown and Ian Bradshaw had staged a remarkable comeback to stitch an unbeaten 71-run stand to land West Indies the 2004 Champions Trophy – in England.
India, the current world champions and top-ranked ODI side, also came close to winning the title twice – in Kenya (2000) and Sri Lanka (2002). In Kenya, they were denied by Chris Cairns who struck an unbeaten century in the final while in Sri Lanka, the rain played spoilsport – twice. So, both these teams will be eager to make up for the past slips (natural or otherwise) on Sunday. It seems a fitting finale to the much debated competition which is to breathe its last as the ICC has finally decided to scrap it altogether due to the packed international calendar. It will be a battle of Indian batting v/s English bowling.
Indian batting, led by Shikhar Dhawan, has been the most consistent while their only concern remains the yet-to-be-tested middle order. The openers have provided them, unfailingly, with a fairly strong start, leaving the upcoming batsmen with the luxury to go hammer and tongs at will. Their strength will be up for a stern test in the event of a failure of the top order and when facing the English pace attack, it is very much a possibility.
James Anderson, even in the absence of the conventional swing, has done enough to trouble the batsmen. It is his consistency that has landed him 10 wickets in four games. The duo of Anderson and Stuart Broad was prominent in destroying South African hopes of a title in the semi-final when they shared five wickets between them.
Indian team, it seems, can do nothing wrong at the moment. Be it the form of their batsmen, their flawless fielding or the exploits of their moustachioed men (read: Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja) – everything is working in their favour. It is heartening to see that the team hasn’t lost any focus even in the wake of a major scandal back home.
A worrying factor for India is their death bowling. After Zaheer Khan, they haven’t been able to delegate the responsibility of halting the late charge in the final 10 overs of the innings. Their bowlers have got them the early breakthrough, but plugging the leakage when the batsmen are going after everything will be crucial in this match.
If the rain permits, on Sunday we are in for a close contest between the current two best ODI sides in the world.
Champions Trophy has been marred by controversies in the past and the same was expected this year too. However, England, to the surprise of many, have hosted a competitive event. Apart from the odd incident of a game between Australia and New Zealand being completely abandoned due to persistent rain, so far the tourney can be counted a success. It is a pity that a sleek and crisp Champions Trophy – a tournament that has a much superior claim of being the premier 50-over competition than the oversized World Cup – will cease to exist after the final on Sunday at Edgbaston.