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Champions Trophy - India is the team to beat

They say tough times brings teams together.  They say adversity brings out the best in us.  Looks like that is what is happening to Team India in the ongoing Champions Trophy in the UK.   AlI the talk about match fixing and spot fixing and conflict of interest seems to be bringing out the best in team India.  I am writing this blog just ahead of the semi finals where India will play Sri Lanka.  But got to say this - looks like team India is firing on all cylinders.  I have never seen the Indian team perform so commandingly well in a tournament before - especially one played outside the sub-continent.  All aspects of the Indian team seems to be clicking well and India is clearly the best team in the tournament so far.
  • Our bowling is superb, with the exception of Ishanth Sharma.   Bhuvaneshwar Kumar continues to impress one and all - the amazing thing is the carry he gets even when he is bowling around 130 kmph.  I don't think it is because of the wickets alone - I feel the carry he gets is better than what Ishant gets.  So there is something in the way he delivers the ball that makes sure that the edges carry comfortably to the slips. Umesh Yadav is quick and always looking to take wickets - India has sorely missed a bowler like him for many years now.  Understandably, he is a little expensive - but with the others bowlers bowling tight - he can be afforded the luxury of going for a few runs.  The Indian spinners are both bowling extremely well.  Ashwin has taken the role of the senior spinner and has been very economical - though he has not taken as many wickets as he used to.  Ravindra Jadeja is bowling extremely well - I feel this is because he has started bowling a little quicker than he used to.  Because the spinners have been bowling well, we have not seen Amit Mishra - I think Amit is a fantastic spinner and his chance will come sooner or later.  As I said earlier, the only worry is Ishanth.  If he does not pull up his socks soon, he will lose his place to Shami Ahmed or Varun Aaron - or even to someone like Mohit Sharma.
  • The Indian batting seems to go on and on.  It looks like 300 is a par score for India on any wicket.  Shikhar Dhawan is in bradmenesque touch while promoting Rohit Sharma to open seems like an inspired move.  Virat Kohli is stroking the ball as beautifully as ever.  Even though Suresh Raina has not played to his potential so far, Dinesh Karthik and Dhoni have provided tremendous stability in the middle.  I am very impressed with Dinesh Karthik.  While he has always been a pleasing batsman to watch - it is good to see him convert his ability into big scores. And India seems to have the big hitters - Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja - to finish the innings well and also chase down big scores.
  • India is - without doubt - the best fielding team in the tournament.  And that is so heartening to see for folks like us who have seen India play for over 2 decades now.  The only weak links in the Indian fielding unit are Ashwin and Ishant - both are relatively slow movers, but both of them are solid fielders and do not miss too many balls.   Everyone else - Raina, Kohli, Jadeja, Shikhar, Rohit, Dinesh - is exceptional and each of them easily save 5-10 runs each in every match.   Add that all up and it is possible to make a case that the Indian fielding unit saves close to 50 runs in every inning.  And that is a huge number.
  • And finally,  Dhoni looks like a magician with his captaincy.  There is a very settled feel to the Indian team where everyone seems to know their place in the team.  I also suspect that playing a 50 over game is a bit of a relief to the players - all of them get a chance to express themselves and perform - while the players seem rushed in many T20 matches.   While Dhoni has not been forced to make too many batting order changes, his bowling changes and field placements are working really well.
India takes on its familiar foe Sri Lanka in the semi-finals.  Sri Lanka is a dangerous and talented team - but one that is searching for consistency.  The senior pros in Srilanka - Mahela, Sanga and Malinga have to fire for Sri Lanka to go further in the tournament.  Weather permitting, this promises to be a great game.  Happy viewing !

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