After its glorious triumph in the recently concluded Champions Trophy, India will get another opportunity to cement its status as one of the leading sides in one day international cricket with the Celkon Trophy tri-series that features Sri Lanka and hosts West Indies. I am sure the players will be tired after the recent couple of months where they have been playing almost nonstop. India has also been dealt a body blow of sorts before the tournament with the loss of Irfan Pathan to injury. I am sure he must have been in Dhoni’s plans as a bowling all-rounder, but I feel that, given the fact that he was not getting any game in the Champions Trophy, the team may not miss him that much.
However, I do think that it would have been better if his replacement would have been for a similar player – someone like Praveen Kumar who is good with the ball and can also contribute handily with the bat down the order. That I think would have kept the balance of the whole squad intact. Shami Ahmed, though, is not a bad choice given the pace he generates and his ability to bowl a fuller length. It will be interesting to see how many games he gets. I, however, have a hunch that Dhoni might try him in the opening couple of matches with Vinay Kumar to give Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav some respite from the back breaking schedule.
Once again, India’s spinners will play a major role in this tournament and this time India is well stacked in this department, as always, with all-rounders Jadeja and Ashwin backed up by Amit Mishra who is fairly capable with the bat as well. I also feel that Dhoni will be especially keen on keeping Bhuvaneshwar Kumar going, not only because of his effective swing bowling but also because of his capability to get good runs at the back end of an innings.
I believe India has the batting depth to win the tournament and the added factor here is that most batters are in good form with the exception of Kohli who may as well choose this series to make a mark again. However, a win may not be that easy given the quality of its opponents. Sri Lanka has selected a strong side with only one change from the side that progressed to the semis in the Champions Trophy – Upul Tharanga in place of the injured Tillekratne Dilshan.
They have a batting depth to rival India with the presence of maestros Jayawardene and Sangakkara who will be ably backed up by the young guns Chandimal, Thirimanne, Kusal Perera and the skipper Angelo Matthews. The absence of Dilshan will be felt but I presume Tharanga has the quality to step into the large shoes of the injured opener. The Lankan lions also have some good all-rounders in their ranks like Jeevan Mendis and Dilhara Lokuhettige. Personally I am a little surprised that Thisara Perera was left out as well as the fact that there was no place in the team for Farveez Maharoof, who is among the better all-rounders in the country.
The bowling unit is fairly strong with quick bowlers like Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga to be supported by the spin trio of Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath and Sachitra Senanayake. The third side in the team, West Indies, have till now announced the team only for the first couple of games. As is usual it is a team heavy with batting stars like Gayle, Samuels, Pollard to be supported by Charles, Darren Bravo and the recalled Devon Smith.
The form of all-rounders Dwayne Bravo, who is the captain as well, and Darren Sammy will be critical to the Windies performing well on their home turf. The bowling is well stocked with fast bowlers Roach, Rampaul and Best and the mystery spinner Narine. I have an inkling that like the Champions Trophy, the Windies may prefer to go in with an extra batter and letting Pollard, Samuels and Gayle perform the role of the 6th bowler and that could well lead them to lose some matches. I sincerely think that here the selection of Andre Russell could have worked wonders for the team and I do hope that he turns out in the second couple of matches for the Caribbeans.
In all, at the moment India seems to be the favorite to land the trophy but they will surely face a major challenge from their neighbors as well as the hosts and any victory will have to be a hard-earned one.
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