Just a few more weeks. As the Champions trophy
festivities begin to warm up, we can only anticipate us fans getting fed with
a heavy dosage of international cricket.
I do have a few reservations about this tournament though. Although this is
one of the main money making vehicles for the ICC, I see no need of this tournament
to be scheduled just six months before the world cup.
The day-night nature of these games is another aspect I do not like. The toss
becomes too important and can decide the outcome of the game even before a single
ball has been bowled. On the flip side, however, the fans do get a chance to
watch the matches live after a full days work. This can only generate higher
ticket sales that equals to higher profit that in return benefits everyone.
This Champion's trophy tournament can be a measuring scale for all the Test-playing
nation to see where they stand and how much to improve before the World Cup.This
year the tournament will be held in India. Four venues will be used.Unfortunately, Delhi and Calcutta, the two cricket mad cities will not be a part of this tournament. Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh
will square off each other in preliminary matches. Two teams from this fracas
will qualify to play with the remaining six in the final groups. Teams will
then be broken down into two groups. One group will have India, Australia, England
and one of the qualifiers; the other group will have Pakistan, South Africa,
New Zealand and another qualifier.
Chances of winning
Bangladesh: None. Bangladesh is still way behind the standard
of international cricket but they are improving. Their main problem is consistency.
This will only come with experience. The selectors, cricket board members and
coaches are all trying their best and working behind the scenes to steady the
ship. The team does lack strong nerves and some players lack that winning killer instinct. Looking at the big picture
and looking at the talent and commitment they will be a force to be recon with
in the near future. Their time hasn't come yet. To qualify for the main event,
the Bangladesh team needs to beat any one of the two giants Sri-Lanka or the
West Indies and must beat Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe: None. With the fall out of some great players, they
also do not stand a chance. They are extremely young but learning fast. The
recent home series win against Bangladesh proves the point that they can compete.
Their talent level is not up to the international standard yet and just like
Bangladesh they need more time. For Zimbabwe to qualify, they would have to
repeat the heroic performance of their last home series. That is a tall ask considering
this team is not the team that was.
West Indies: Good. It is hard to believe the defending champs
are playing to qualify for the main tamasha. If the recent home series thrashing
of the Indians is any indication, then I would hazard a guess that they are
back. This team is very unpredictable and may yet crash to the minnows Bangladesh
and Zimbabwe. They have quality players but at times, it seems they just don't
gel together. However, if ranking has any value, they should easily qualify.
Sri Lanka: Very Good. The Lions are indeed looking like lions.
They have already sent a fiery warning to all other nations by whitewashing
England 5 - 0 in an away series. The manner of the win was very intimidating.
Surely they have the firepower to beat anyone. Tom Moody is suddenly looking
like a real winning coach.
England: Low. In the Last 18 months England has become a powerhouse
in the longer version of the game. However, in the limited over matches they
can't seem to win that often. With injuries to key players, England is reeling.
Then have less chance than the West Indies.
New Zealand: They are an enigma.
They haven't played that many matches recently. If Bond and Fleming contribute
every game, they do have a realistic chance to win it all. Psychologically,
they can't seem get over their nearest rival Australia for some reason. Vettori
will also have to play a huge role if they want to go to the semis or finals.
South Africa: Low. A force without much quality match practice.
A semi final exit on even a final exit may happen. I can't see them winning
the trophy though. Their captain Smith has said that they would attack every team and would look to
score 350 every time they go out to bat even if that means getting all out for 240
with 15 overs left. This kind of approach does not work in India with it's slow
pitches. One must be patient and as these are day-night games, batting second
could make them vulnerable.
Pakistan: Fair. They had a recent disappointing performance
in England. A 2-2 tie only shows how vulnerable this team is. With the bowling
power they have on paper, they can blowout anyone. Their batting leaves much
to be desired. They have been experimenting with the opening pair for a long
time. Recently, under Bob Woolmer, it seems that this process has picked up
another notch. I don't think they can qualify for semis unless they solve their
India: Very Good. Greg Chapel has slowly shaped up this team
in to a well-organized unit. With Tendulkar getting back into the grove, a young
pace attack, and a home field advantage they have a good chance of winning it
Australia: Fair. As strong as the Aussie team is, one would
have thought they have a couple of these tournament titles under their belt.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Australia has never won this tournament.
This time they have named their strongest squad and are determined to win. My
gut feeling says that they may have to wait a little longer. They just do not have a good track record on Indian soil. Their potent fast bowling
attack gets negated by the slow pitches and their spin-attack consists of Cullen
plus two/three part-timers. They recently had been doing too many experiments with
the opening slot and player rotation in and out in the lineup. And in the CT, they
will be bringing back Gilchrist who has had no match practice (Even though he might
just be the very few who donâ€™t need any match practice). During the recent DLF cup, the West Indies beat them once fairly comprehensively, and India had them by the throat in another match. India just didnâ€™t want it bad enough and lost an easily winnable game.
My pick is Sri Lanka. My second pick is Bangladesh, of course. Cricket is a
funny game where prediction means nothing. I am praying and hoping for Bangladesh
to make it out of the qualifying round. That would be the best Eid gift for
all Bangladeshi fans this year.