It is the final game of Champions Trophy 2017 and it is a clash between favourites India and their eternal arch-rivals Pakistan. A game of cricket between these two is always a mouthwatering contest considering so many factors such as the historical context, political situations, and more than anything else the sheer levels of skill and artistry on display. So far, India has been the bookies’ favourite and barring the odd slip against Sri Lanka it has ruthlessly annihilated all its opponents. This is one game that always generates an insane amount of hype, something that can be gauged from reports that state how advertising rates for this day have shot up through the roof.
A look at India
As has been said already, India has been the team to beat in this tournament. It has always had the batsmen and now the bowlers are there as well, plenty of them. The situation is such that bowlers of the calibre of Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, and Ravichandran Ashwin have had to sit out of games because the team was unable to find any place for them in the first eleven. Similarly when you look at the batting bench you see stars like Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik missing out.
India’s batsmen are in great form. Shikhar Dhawan has almost made it a happy habit to perform like Superman at ICC events, especially Champions Trophy. Last time too he was one of the leading lights in India’s march to Champions Trophy glory. Rohit Sharma has continued with his silky and graceful batting while Virat Kohli has come back roaring to form. The middle order of Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, and MS Dhoni has been firing on all cylinders with Yuvraj batting really well in the game against Pakistan. Hardik Pandya has also played well, biffing and belting the ball in the late middle overs and bowling with pace and accuracy. He has given India the much-needed balance.
India’s bowling has been exceptional throughout the tournament. India perhaps right now has the best death bowlers in the world in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The spinners – Jadeja and Ashwin – have been good with Ashwin picking up crucial wickets in the crunch game against South Africa in the league stage. India’s irregular bowlers such as Jadhav have made some telling contributions as well as seen in the semifinal against Bangladesh.
A few words on Pakistan
After South Africa went out of the tournament a dejected Faf du Plessis had predicted that India and England would play the finals. 50% of his prediction has come true. The rest of it has not and for that the credit needs to be given to Pakistan. After being thrashed in the first game against India, it was stung by criticism from all quarters including former cricketers, who are now singing paeans in the team’s praise. Pakistan has risen from the ashes like a phoenix and while the whole team has performed brilliantly to say the least two people stand out – Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali.
Zaman has scored two crucial 50s against Sri Lanka and England. His attacking strokeplay has thrilled many but one feels against the bowling attack of India that is so high on quality and form he would be appropriately tested, especially with his penchant to pull and drive bowlers to distraction. Hasan Ali is right now the face of Pakistan’s pace bowling and in a lineup that includes Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan that is no mean feat. Apart from his pace and superb line and length what has stood out is his combative and uncompromising attitude. He has said quite clearly that he is saving his best for India.
What might happen?
Pakistan has also been up to some mind games with its bowling coach Azhar Mahmood saying that the team may not play Amir and may go in with Rumman Raees, who replaced him in the semifinal and did quite a commendable job. The truth is that he is fully fit and will play this crucial game.
At any rate India remains the favourite but one can expect Pakistan to give it a tough fight at the very least. No matter what happens, we are all in for a thrill ride this Sunday at The Oval in London.