It is not an India-Pakistan or an England-Australia showdown in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy but it certainly is a face off between the two best teams in the competition. Both India and England have been on top their game in the tournament so far and will be gunning for the piece of ICC silverware that neither country has in its cabinet. Technically, India shared the ICC Champions Trophy in 2002 when incessant rain played in Sri Lanka prevented the final from being played. But, carving its name and its name alone on the trophy is sure to invigorate the Indian team going into the final.
India heads into the final on the back of four thumping wins against quality sides, not to mention the two humiliating defeats that it dealt Australia and Sri Lanka in the warm-up games. M S Dhoni and his men have managed to leave the sordid episode of the IPL spot fixing saga behind them and play some brilliant cricket over the course of the fortnight. Dhoni, seemingly oblivious to the cries of the media over his alleged involvement with a sports management firm, has led his team with conviction and has not shied away from reposing faith in the youngsters, most of them who are playing their first ICC event.
A Captain who has more faith in his instincts than in the hallowed codex of cricket, Dhoni, like always, has gambled a fair deal. Despite the squad boasting a regular opener in Murali Vijay, Dhoni stuck to his gut and asked Rohit Sharma, a middle order batsman struggling for form in international cricket to open the innings with the belligerent Shikhar Dhawan and his gambit paid off. The duo forged together two century-run stands in the first two games of the tournament and have carried on their form to the business end of the competition. The only cause for worry for Dhoni would be the untested middle-order, which has had little to do in the tournament. The bowling line-up has looked been menacing and effective. And right now, with many a pair of young legs prowling the outfield, India seems to be the best fielding side at the moment and Dhoni was absolutely delighted to admit it.
England, though lost to Sri Lanka, practically annihilated arch-rivals, Australia and its trans-Tasmanian rivals, New Zealand in the Group stages. The defeat to Sri Lanka notwithstanding, England has by far been the second best team in the tournament. Despite the absence of Kevin Pietersen in its ranks, the batting order looks well-settled and most of England’s top-order batsmen have been amongst runs.
England’s bowling line-up, one of the best in the world at the moment, has lived up to its billing. Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and the pace battery have provided England the early breakthroughs and the spin attack have backed up their pace counterparts.
Given its rampaging form in the tournament so far, and the near perfect display of cricket that it has put up, India will certainly be the favourites going into the final. But, given the nature of a final, Indians will do well not to let complacency creep in. England on the other hand will know that it can afford to give no quarter going against a redoubtable Indian side.
England: Alastair Cook (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes
India: MS Dhoni (c) (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar