The ICC Champions Trophy 2006 is already underway in India. The tournament is in its initial phase i.e. the qualifying round. The main Round will commence on 15 th of October. The tournament which is also called the “Mini World-Cup” will involve all the best teams in the World. Great cricket is expected from these countries in the coming days. The following article gives an overview of the participating teams, their chances in the tournament and the players in each side that can make a difference.
With a fine blend of youth and experience, Pakistan look a formidable side for this year’s tournament. The absence of the skipper, Inzamam-ul-Haq, will definitely dampen Pakistan’s chances of winning the trophy for the first time. Even then, Pakistan are a dangerous side with depth in the batting and a fiery bowling attack. The likes of Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi, batting down the order at number 7 and 8, can demolish bowling attacks in a matter of a few overs. The bowling is spear-headed by the fastest bowler in the world, Shoaib Akhtar. With him is Pakistan cricket’s newest star, Muhammad Asif. This duo of pace and discipline is good enough to trouble any batting line-up in the world.
Players to watch: Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Yousuf
Note:Shoaib and Asif tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid-nandrolone and were subsequently sent back to Pakistan where they face a tribunal and if found guilty could face a ban of up to 2 years. Pakistan however with a depleted bowling attack went on to beat Sri Lanka in their opening match.
The world-champions Australia go into the Champions Trophy as the hot-favourites. Surprisingly enough, the Aussies have never won this tournament previously. The 3-time world-cup winners will be determined to set the record straight, by winning the trophy this time. Their team like always is very strong, with a few new faces. There is a rock solid batting line-up which can easily take the game to the opposition by using its attacking prowess. If there is a weakness in the team it is in their bowling purely because of lack of big names apart from Brett Lee and Glen McGrath.
Players to watch: Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey
Having the advantage of playing at home, India are definitely one of the top contenders to lift this year’s Champions Trophy. India, as per tradition, have a batting line-up that is second to none. The bowlers of other teams will have their work cut-out against the Indians especially on the flat tracks. In the bowling department, India will rely heavily on spin. India have not had a great run of form of late but writing them off would be a big mistake.
Players to Watch: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, M.S.Dhoni
Team South-Africa, ranked second in the ODI-ratings, will be a strong force to reckon with in this edition of the Champions Trophy. Having beaten Australia at home after a thrilling one-day series, the South Africans have proved that on their day, they can beat any side in the world. South Africa will field a well-balanced side with all-round capability in both bowling and batting. Flamboyant stroke-players like Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher can always be a handful on Indian wickets. In the bowling area, the pace of Makhaya Ntini and the precision of Shaun Pollock can cause trouble to many a batsman. Personally, they are my favourites to win the trophy.
Players to watch: Herscelle Gibbs, Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis
New ZealandThe winners in 2000, New Zealand will go into the tournament as underdogs. The Kiwis have not had a lot of cricket in the last season. Furthermore, the fact that they don’t have an impressive record in India will seriously undermine their chances to win the Champion’s trophy 2006. However, the gutsy Kiwi team with their never-say-die approach can always pull off surprises. Led ably by the ever-reliable Stephen Flemming, they have a good chance of making it to the semi-finals at least.
Players to Watch: Stephen Flemming, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori
The fans’ favourites, Sri Lanka are another strong team. The conditions suit perfectly to their type of play. Spin bowling will, like always, be their ‘weapon of mass destruction’. Their team is full of potential match-winners including the explosive Sanath Jayasuria who can tear bowling line-ups apart and Muttiah Muralitharan, the greatest off-spinner ever. They are captained by Mahela Jayawardane who is gaining a lot of respect as a leader especially after white-washing England in England.
Players to Watch: Sanath Jayasuria, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakara
Currently 8th in the ICC ODI-ratings, England have had abysmal one-day form recently. They have won just two of the last 12 one-day internationals. England have been hurt badly by injuries after their heroic Ashes triumph. Their skipper Michael Vaughaun has been out for more than a year now. The side has a lot of inexperience especially after opener Marcus Trescothick pulled out of the tournament for personal reasons. It will be a great surprise if last time runner-ups make it to the semi-finals even.
Players to watch: Andrew Strauss, Steve Harmison
The West Indies come into the tournament as defending champions but have an uphill task ahead of them. They will take confidence from the fact that they beat Australia and India in the tri-series at Malaysia and made it to the Final. The team heavily relies on skipper Brian Lara. The batting is pretty strong but they have a modest bowling attack which may prove costly in the long-run.
Players to watch: Brian Lara, Chris Gayle
Ashmal Khan FY-S