India are the defending champions of Champions Trophy. (Source: Reuters)
Two teams participating in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy have had off-field issues. Last week, Manchester was rocked by a blast and England need to recover from the tragedy. Australia, a team which has won the title twice, are involved a pay dispute with their board. But former Australia cricketer Ian Chappell has picked both England and Australia alongwith India and South Africa to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
In his ESPNCricinfo column, Chappell wrote: “The four really strong squads are hosts England, defending champions India and perennial competitors Australia and South Africa.”
He exlained that Australia will be motivated to win the title because of the dispute and England have been excellent since the 2015 World Cup. He also wrote that India have the advantage of scoring quick runs and taking wickets in any conditions due to IPL. For South Africa, he put his faith in the strong overall composition of the team.
“The sense that this dispute will further galvanise the Australian team was reinforced by skipper Steven Smith, when he indicated that winning the Champions Trophy would help the players in their negotiations with Cricket Australia.
“Ever since hitting rock bottom with an early exit from the 2015 World Cup, England’s 50-over cricket has been on an upward trend. They appear to be peaking perfectly for this tournament, but they will need to ensure they don’t succumb to stage fright in front of an expectant home audience. England have never won a major one-day tournament, and with their powerful batting line-up and strong pace attack, this is a great opportunity to erase that glitch in their record. In the 2013 tournament, England lost to India in a rain-affected final, and in 2017, the Virat Kohli-led side will again be a major challenge for the hosts.
“Kohli’s men have turned up for this tournament with a glut of T20 games in the IPL. This may turn out to be good preparation, especially when followed by a couple of 50-over warm-up games to get the mind fully attuned to the longer version. T20 cricket ensures batsmen are looking for runs and, of late, bowlers have focused more on taking wickets – the ideal mindset for both facets of the one-day game. India don’t have the pace of the other three top bowling sides, but they do possess a well-balanced attack, capable of taking wickets in any conditions.
“South Africa are the fourth powerhouse team and, even without the injured Dale Steyn, they possess a strong pace attack. They also have the wily leg-spinner Imran Tahir seeking wickets in the middle overs, which is a crucial part of playing 50-over cricket successfully. The South African batting line-up is also powerful, but the team are yet to overcome the knockout-stage hoodoo that dogs them in tournaments. Despite assurances from skipper AB de Villiers in the 2015 World Cup that this was a thing of the past, they have done nothing to brush the monkey off their back,” he wrote.
However, Chappell did not ignore the other four teams and advised India, South Africa, England and Australia to not take Pakistan and New Zealand lightly.
“While the winner will probably come from those four sides, none of the favourites can afford to take teams like Pakistan and New Zealand lightly. As always, New Zealand are a solid outfit but they lack the powerhouse players of Australia and England, both of whom are in New Zealand’s group. Pakistan have the pace attack to worry India and South Africa in Group B, but their batting is brittle and lacks the firepower necessary to unsettle the top sides,” he wrote.
He did not put his faith in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and said they won’t win enough matches to qualify for the semi-finals.
“Both Sri Lanka and an improving Bangladesh will be competitive but they won’t win enough matches to qualify for the knockout stage,” he wrote.
(With inputs from ESPNCricinfo)