In-form India take on mighty S Africa
India would look to putting behind them all the unsavoury controversies around their cricket administration when they take on South Africa in the opening match of the Champions Trophy at the Sophia Gardens on Thursday.
They could not have had a better warm up than the two handsome victories, against Sri Lanka and Australia, in the run-up to the event. It certainly would have lifted their morale, more so the way Dinesh Karthik scored tons in both the games and the form shown by skipper MS Dhoni.
India, on their last trip to the British Isles, failed to win even a single match, losing the Test series 0-4 and the One-dayers 0-3. India go in to the tournament with an eye to the 2015 World Cup. A young and relatively inexperienced squad has been selected with as many as five players touring England for the first time.
Shikhar Dhawan, who on his Test debut scored a blistering 187, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be touring England for the first time and will have a point to prove.
With openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag out of the fray, a lot will depend on the new opening partnership which is yet to be decided.
Vijay had a golden chance to cement his place in the playing eleven but failed miserably in both the warm-up games. On the other hand, Dinesh Karthik, who has been included in the side as a specialist batsman and a back-up keeper to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, may yet again go out to open the innings with Dhawan as he did earlier in his career. This leaves Vijay and Rohit Sharma, who also failed to warm up. Dhoni will have to decide on whether to drop his Chennai Super Kings team-mate Vijay and make Karthik open or drop Rohit Sharma to make way for the wicket-keeper batsman.
India’s bowling has been their weak point for some time now but by bowling Australia out for a paltry 65 they have made a strong statement. An in-form Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma will cause trouble for any batting line-up in the world and throw the wily spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in the midst and the line-up looks a very strong one in any condition.
South Africa, though, will be no pushovers and India can expect a battle on Thursday. Batsmen like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis will walk into any team but the one to look out for will be the explosive David Miller, who with Kings XI Punjab took the IPL by storm.