ICC Champions Trophy: Championship point

A rare double awaits Dhoni & Co while Cook’s men aim to break ICC ODI duck in CT final.

Written by Aditya Iyer | Cardiff | Published: June 23, 2013 1:19:41 am

Tautology is the act of repeating the same argument or logic several times over with the use of different words. The press at Edgbaston on Saturday unleashed it with fierce rigour during Alastair Cook’s pre-final conference. A moment after the England captain walked into the hall,he placed himself behind the microphone and patted the gleaming trophy he and his side will be playing for on Sunday. Then,it began.

England haven’t won a major trophy in 50-over cricket since the first World Cup was played 38 years ago,said one gentleman. Four final appearances for England — 1979,1987,1992 and 2004 — in one-day majors and four defeats,said another. These finals don’t come around too often,added a third. Is the Champions Trophy right up there with the Ashes for this England set-up,wondered a fourth. Cook,paying less attention with every passing minute,adjusted the peak of his cap and chuckled.

“Yeah,it is,” he said,shrugging. “We haven’t won a global 50-over tournament,as everyone keeps reminding me every time I sit in one of these press conferences. So yes,I know that pretty well,and we’re desperately keen to try and change that.” He paused here and added: “So that you guys can talk about something else and I can give you different answers to the same question pretty much over and over again.”

In order to do so,Cook and his men will have to put one past the best side in this event,a team that are yet to come within a country mile of a contest in four attempts,let alone a defeat: MS Dhoni’s India,the reigning world champions.

Best of both worlds

Here it is,then,the big final. One that perhaps wouldn’t have had the same air of anticipation to it had even one of these two finalists not made it as far. Without either India or England,Edgbaston on Sunday wouldn’t have had its biggest selling point — hosts versus favourites. Or a clash of cricketing cultures. Or a match up between those who ran the game in the past and those who are shrewd enough to bring in the big,leafy green notes today.

From a cricketing perspective too,this has all the makings of the toughest contest in the event thus far. The best bowling side in the world,England,taking on the might of India’s batting,easily the strongest in the Champions Trophy. This Indian side have done no wrong here in England in four matches so far. A stark contrast from the side that could win none from as many in the one-day series here a couple of years ago.

“We can draw a lot of confidence from it,” said Cook,referring to India’s one-day leg of the 2011 tour. “I know they haven’t been beaten yet on this tour,but we have got some good memories of playing against India in England. We’ll know tomorrow evening if that had any impact on the result.” Dhoni,however,was quick to play it down by admitting that his side from a couple of years back were poorer than England and also weaker than his current bunch.

“What’s important is to accept that we didn’t do really well in that series,and think about the stuff that we have done well in this series,” he said. On that front,then,Dhoni and his side have plenty to think and feel good about. Here is a 20-something side that he,the only 30-plus man in the well-set playing eleven,has complete and utter control of — devoid of other power centres. Here is a side that fields,by his own admission,better than any other team in world cricket — a far cry from his days of complaining about old legs and shoddy throws.

“Our bowlers have also adjusted to the conditions better than most,which is why we are using the powerplay periods really well. And the top order has been through an excellent run,” Dhoni added,completing every positive that India can tick after this tournament,in their lead-up to the 2015 World Cup. These positives,however,have led to a couple of negatives,both of which Cook was quick to point out on Saturday.

Out of a total of 851 runs scored by India,the top order of Shikhar Dhawan,Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have scored 633 (three-fourths) between them,ensuring that the middle-order hasn’t been exposed to even a single crunch situation in four matches. And on Sunday,that middle-order will in all probability have to face the likes of James Anderson,Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan. “If we take some early wickets,it will be interesting to see players outside their top three cope with the pressure of our great bowling attack,” said Cook.

James,The ‘Great’

Anderson alone puts the word ‘great’ in that attack. He became England’s most successful ODI bowler in the opening game against Australia. Going into the final,he’s the joint second-highest wicket-taker in this event,along with Ravindra Jadeja,with 10 scalps. For a man who has the knack of terrorising the Indians with his darting seam and reverse swing in these conditions,Anderson will be expected to deliver two things: wickets and that elusive trophy.

So,does the lack of a 50-over major coupled with all those big final losses in the past make England hungry or vulnerable? Dhoni answered such: “They could be hungry and play hard and they could also be vulnerable. Take whichever answer you prefer. I’ve given you both sets of answers for the same question.” The press laughed. This tautological game can be played both ways.

In their four matches so far,India haven’t lost a single wicket in the first 10 overs. So far,Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have forged opening partnerships of 127 (53/0 after 10 overs),101 (66/0),58 (45/0) and 77 (40/0).

In the final,however,Dhawan and Rohit could come up against their sternest test of the tournament. England’s seamers have been a potent force with the new ball,and have,so far,allowed their opponents first-wicket stands of just 17,10,14 and 1. In their last two matches,England reduced New Zealand to 62/5 and South Africa to 80/8.

Were England to strike early,this could leave India’s middle-order exposed early. This hasn’t happened so far in the Champions Trophy. Dinesh Karthik,MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have faced 84,26 and 10 balls respectively. In contrast,India’s top three of Dhawan,Rohit and Virat Kohli have faced 334,219 and 150 balls.

Live on Star Cricket: 3:00PM

India 2013 better than class of 2011: Vaughan

London: Former England captain Michael Vaughan feels that the current Indian ODI team is “better” than the one that won the World Cup two years ago in 2011. “India have been the team of the tournament so far. They are a fearless,aggressive bunch and I have not seen that from India before. This team are better than the World Cup-winning side in 2011,” Vaughan wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

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