Harsha Bhogle : India not favorites for Champions Trophy

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Harsha Bhogle : India not favorites for Champions Trophy

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SportsCafe Desk

05/12/2017

Harsha Bhogle has claimed that England and South Africa will start as the Champions Trophy, in England, as favourites and not India. Bhogle broke down his assessment of the Indian team to the minutest of details in his post and stated the strengths and shortcomings of the defending champions.

Harsha Bhogle, who is known for his in-depth analysis of cricket and as the voice of Indian cricket, recently posted a blog on Cricbuzz that analyzed the Indian squad for the upcoming Champions Trophy. Bhogle started the blog by explaining the committee's decision of overlooking IPL form while selecting the players for the tournament. He explained how the value of a wicket differed in the T20 and 50-over match format. 

"The batsman's mindset in a 20-over game is to go for it at the first opportunity even if the risk is substantial. A 50-50 shot is almost always on even early in the innings. And so, the positions they create for themselves, the near baseball style wind-up are all pretty high risk. The foot moves away from the ball for example where with a bit more time, it might make its more normal movement towards where it has landed. More important, it isn't quite calamitous if you get out because if you get seven or eight good innings out of fourteen, you've done pretty well," Bhogle wrote.

Dhoni's IPL strike rate therefore, or the starts Shikhar Dhawan had in the first few games aren't as much of an issue because the ability to produce long innings is a superior factor.

Harsha approved the selection of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan and attributed their selection to the duo's ability to play longer innings which were missing in the T20 format. However, the 55-year-old suggested that the Indian batsmen were not tested enough as they played at home and a key factor that could derail India would be adapting to English conditions. 

"Dhoni's IPL strike rate therefore, or the starts Shikhar Dhawan had in the first few games aren't as much of an issue because the ability to produce long innings is a superior factor. Hence, the more predictable line-up. Of greater concern though is the ability to adapt to early summer conditions in England and while recent indicators suggest high-scoring matches are likely to be the norm, you need batsmen in good form to handle the more demanding conditions. The IPL throws up no proof of that," the 55-year-old added.

He did, however, criticize the committee's decision of going to England with an extra batsman while naming Kuldeep Yadav as a better option. According to the 55-year old, Kuldeep's rare bowling style would have provided Kohli with an extra bit of flexibility in bowling. Bhogle believes that the chinaman bowler has the potential to "befuddle quality batsmen" as was showcased by him in the IPL where the young bowler did well despite getting little time to settle in. 

I don't believe India start favourites, South Africa and England probably do

"I suspect there is a little concern in the minds of the selectors because they have chosen one batsman more than they otherwise might have. You back your first choice batsmen for a couple of games anyway, you have one in reserve if required, and if you qualify, it means you have done all right. I would have thought an extra spinner, especially an unusual one like Kuldeep Yadav, would have been handy and would have allowed the captain more flexibility with his bowling," he explained.

"He befuddled a lot of quality batsmen in the IPL, and even given that they were in attack mode rather than in a more passive wait-and-see mode, it was mighty impressive. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are tested, dare I say reliable, but having Yadav around would have been an insurance in case either of those looked ineffective."

The commentator expressed his concerns regarding Kedar Jadhav who, yet, has not had the exposure to foreign conditions which would have proved beneficial for him as well as India. 

"From an India perspective, it would have been nice if Rohit Sharma had opened the batting for the Mumbai Indians and if Ajinkya Rahane had strung together longer innings but both those have enough experience now to be able to adapt. The test though will be for Kedar Jadhav who was exceptional in the one-dayers against England but who couldn't quite play similar match-winning innings for RCB," remarked the renowned commentator.

I suspect India will go in with six batsmen, two spinners and three quicks with Ashwin and Jadeja swapping No 7 and 8 depending on how many overs are left.

The commentator was all praises for India's pace bowling attack which includes the like of Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Jasprit Bumrah. Moreover, he suggested that Mohammed Shami would play the role of a reserve bowler for the majority of the tournament as could be concluded from his rare appearances for the Delhi franchise. The 55-year old also backed Hardik Pandya as a viable bowling option on seaming England pitches and predicted that India's lineup in the majority of the games would consist of 6 batsmen, two spinners, and three pacers. 

"The bowling, if anything, looks more encouraging with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jaspreet Bumrah seeming in very good rhythm. It is almost certain that all three will play with Hardik Pandya the extra option if conditions are really seam-friendly. Virat Kohli needs to be convinced though that Pandya can give him ten overs because while Jadhav and Yuvraj might be good back-up bowlers in Indian conditions, they may not offer much in early summer English conditions," Bhogle wrote praising the bowlers. 

The preference for the status quo means that Robin Uthappa has to produce more in the domestic season for another look-in and the fact that Rishabh Pant is the back-up keeper means he needs to break the door down in a sector that has a lot of competition.

"I suspect India will go in with six batsmen, two spinners and three quicks with Ashwin and Jadeja swapping No 7 and 8 depending on how many overs are left. It would have been nice to have had a few more overs under Mohammed Shami's belt and the fact that he wasn't always the preferred option at the end of the innings for Delhi Daredevils might suggest that he isn't yet at peak form and so will probably play the reserve bowler's role."

"He hasn't had a lot of one-day cricket recently, neither for that matter, has Ashwin, and he tends to get better the more he bowls. There isn't a lot of time for that between now and the start of the Champions Trophy."

Bhogle then went to explain why certain players had been left out of the squad despite impressive performances in the ongoing IPL season. Starting off with Robin Uthappa who has been impeccable in the IPL this season, Bhogle suggested that if he would have had a better domestic season he might have been picked up. He further stated that Rishabh Pant and Basil Thampi are strong future prospects for India.

"The preference for the status quo means that Robin Uthappa has to produce more in the domestic season for another look-in and the fact that Rishabh Pant is the back-up keeper means he needs to break the door down in a sector that has a lot of competition. And clearly the selectors want to see a lot more of Basil Thampi who has probably emerged as the next cab off the rank," he added.

Towards the end, Harsha said, "I don't believe India start favourites, South Africa and England probably do" but concluded by saying that if the team reaches the semi-final then only a couple of quality performances could win them the title so semi-finals is what they should aim for.   

How many dismissals will Dhoni be involved in?

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