x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

India to leave troubles behind as focus becomes winning Champions Trophy

MS Dhoni and India are ready to play some cricket and put the corruption issues troubling Indian Premier League behind them.

India's Virat Kohli signs autographs for spectators during the warm-up cricket match ahead of the 2013 Champions Trophy opener between India and Australia at The Cardiff Wales Stadium.
India's Virat Kohli signs autographs for spectators during the warm-up cricket match ahead of the 2013 Champions Trophy opener between India and Australia at The Cardiff Wales Stadium.

With Indian cricket reeling from a corruption scandal, the world champions can provide some much-needed respite by winning the seventh and final edition of the Champions Trophy and confirming their status as the best 50-over team.

The 18-day tournament features the world's top-eight ODI countries and starts Thursday with India taking on South Africa in Cardiff.

Despite the turmoil back home, India could well be the team to beat despite being without a host of leading players including Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from ODIs last year as the most decorated player in the format.

The 2011 World Cup winners have impressed with victories in warm-up matches over Sri Lanka and Australia as they seek to bury negative headlines of spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) that have embroiled players and high-ranking officials.

Captain MS Dhoni tried to look at the positives, saying the players are in good touch after their labours in the IPL.

"With the kind of fitness level that is going around right now, each and every member is looking fit," Dhoni said on arrival in England. "So, most of them are in very good touch."

India chased down their highest-target ever of 334 runs against Sri Lanka in the first warm-up game, and their bowling attack, widely regarded as the team's weak link, tore through Australia, knocking over the holders for just 65 on Tuesday.

India are in a difficult Group B with Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies, who captured the World Twenty20 last year and won the Champions Trophy in 2004 when it was last held on English soil.

West Indies also have Chris Gayle, the world's most destructive batsman, in good form after a prolific IPL campaign.

"We can use that win [in 2004] and the T20 victory last year as positives as we look ahead to this tournament," Gayle said. "We have a very good allround team so I don't see any reason when we can't go all the way again."

South Africa look unlikely to risk Dale Steyn iagainst India after the 29-year-old pace bowler suffered a side strain in the warm-up defeat against Pakistan and, while he has not been completely ruled out of the Group B meeting in south Wales, captain AB de Villiers admits it would be foolish to potentially risk further damage.

He said: "It's obviously not looking good, but we will reassess him tonight and tomorrow morning and make a final call on that.

"It is sort of touch-and-go and it is obviously an issue and it is something we will have to look at.

"There are a few more games coming up, this is not our one and only game, so we wouldn't like him to be ruled out of the rest of the tournament."

Group A sees England drawn alongside Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. England, the only competing country without a major 50-over title to its name, would have been hoping to benefit from home conditions but have been set back following a series loss to New Zealand.

"The boys are delighted to come over here and play against a team as good as England, in their own conditions, and have wrapped the series up after two games," said New Zealand Captain Brendan McCullum.

 

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