ICC Champions Trophy Cricket
Champions Trophy has always produced topsy turvy results. Giants have always crashed out early, while relative minnows seem to get to the top fairly regularly. There was even an instance when Sri Lanka and India shared the title rather than any single team declared victor (2002). And by the way, this is one tournament that South Africa actually has won. Yes, the inaugural tournament held in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1998 and a young and upbeat South Africa coached by Bob Woolmer beat out West Indies in the final. And West Indies, who are never ranked among the top 4 in one day cricket won it themselves in 2004.
This year the event is being held in South Africa. Based on the form of the teams and the unpredictable nature of the tournament, it is difficult to predict who will win it. Having said that, I will still predict the semi-finalists for this tournament. Based on the consistent performance put up by the teams, I believe, the following four teams shall reach the semi-final
Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan
Sri Lanka is probably the most consistent side of them all. They have the most number of match winners whom one can rely on and therefore, their chances of not only making it to the semi-final but going beyond it are good. Their weakness will be batting on bouncy South African tracks. In the last T20 world cup final, Pakistan exposed this kink in their armor. All great teams get over their weaknesses, and if they did, then Sri Lanka may go on to win it again.
South Africa has begun to shape up like a team possessed for some greatness. They have started to win crucial matches with more consistency and therefore, with current form, it is likely they will reach the semi-final stages of the tournament. Their only weakness will be if their batsmen are able to keep the consistency going throughout the tournament. If not, then early curtains for them.
Australia after a complete drubbing of England (in one day matches) are poised to reach the semi-final. The team is learning fast and new boys are settling in. Most of the players have it in them to make the difference and therefore, it is easy to see them make it to the final four. Their only weakness would be if their batsmen fail to fire at the right times. If that happens, then early curtains for them.
I chose Pakistan as the fourth team over India and New Zealand. India, having just defeated both New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Columbo put up a strong case, but one reason for my dropping them is that they are not consistent enough outside of the subcontinent. Their fielding is weak and at times laughable. And in big tournaments like the Champions Trophy, it counts a lot. Hence, they are not likely to get among the top 4.
New Zealand have an outside chance but nothing more. Their team is suffering from lack of quality cricketers. They lack bowlers who can take wickets at crucial junctures and batsmen who can win them all on their own on a consistent manner. They have sparks of brilliance but nothing to write about.
And now why Pakistan? I must admit they are an outside chance. Only because, they now play the least amount of cricket among all the Test playing nations. Heck, Bangladesh gets away with playing more matches than them in a year. Pakistan’s lack of international cricket is what hides their true strength. They have superb match winning bowlers in Umer Gul and Mohammad Asif. Their batsmen like Yunus Khan and Mohammad Yusuf can win matches all on their own. With able support from Afridi and Ajmal in spin, Pakistan currently has a far balanced squad than either New Zealand or India.
Their lack of Cricket is also one of their strengths. The team is extremely well rested and hungry for victory. So they might seem rusty, but once they get going, boy it will be a treat to watch. T20 World cup a few months back showed their class and their strength. They demolished their opponents so consistently and with such finesse that cricket seemed like a child’s play.
I will not be surprised if Pakistan comes home with the Champions Trophy.