India have undoubtedly looked the most dominant side in the Champions Trophy this year. But that, by no means, makes them a favourite to clinch the trophy. Not only because they have a habit of faltering at the final hurdle, but also since the toughest challenge for them will be when they face England in that summit clash. Of all the teams that India have played so far in the competition, England are the most prepared to deal with the conditions on offer, not just because they are the hosts, but also because they have the players to do so.
As they have done throughout the series, India will heavily depend on Shikhar Dhawan to give them the opening boost. The left-hander has not failed in a single game in the tournament so far. While that is great news for India, it is also an indication that he is due for a low score. India would be hoping he carries on his rollicking form for one more game, but England’s opening bowlers – James Anderson and Steven Finn have the ability to produce unplayable deliveries to get rid of the best in the world, just like they did against South Africa.
If Dhawan fails, it would put India in a highly unfamiliar position in the big game since they are so used to his comforting presence out in the middle. However, this is where the other experienced guys in the team must put their hands up. One is not quite sure what to expect of Rohit Sharma. He has got starts and given it away in every game till date. Can be rise to the occasion at least in the final? Virat Kohli will be a key batsman in the final. He’s a big match player, and also ran himself into form in the semi-final against Sri Lanka.
Apart from pacers, spin might also pose a threat to the Indians. Although they are said to be masters of the craft, there have been occasions in recent years where tweakers have undone the Indians. In that sense James Tredwell can play a defining role in the final. He may not end up being as effective as he was against the hapless South Africans. But, if he can throttle the likes of Raina, Karthik and Dhoni in the middle overs, and Ravindra Jadeja towards the end, Tredwell would have done a good job.
India’s bowling has made a significant statement if intent against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but the England batting will test them since they have better men at their disposal of handle the kind of bowlers India have in their kitty. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be expected to pick wickets at the top, but his task would be made difficult with the likes of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott at the top of the order, all three of whom have tasted plenty of success against India. Thus, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will have to use all their experience to keep the trio quiet.
In the spin department, R. Ashwin and Jadeja will come up against Joe Root who, apart from the alleged bar brawl with David Warner has done nothing wrong. Just like the Indians, England also have a strong lower order with Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler all capable of playing match-defining cameos. With both teams so well-matched, the side that exploits the other team’s weaknesses better will lay their hands on the Champions Trophy.
--By A Cricket Analyst