Before the start of the forthcoming eight-team 2017 ICC Champions Trophy (ICC) event in England on June 1, the former Sri Lankan skipper Kumara Sangakkara feels it is tough to pick the two finalists of the 18-day tournament but expects India to qualify for the semi-finals alongside England, Australia and South Africa.
The veteran Sri Lankan batsman Sangakkara, who is the Brand Ambassador of the ICC Champions Trophy from Sri Lanka, has further termed eight teams are highly competitive, as he conceived it’s hard to predict the two teams for the grand finale which will take place at The Oval on June 18.
“I think picking finalists is too tough, but my favourites for the semi-finals would be Australia, England, India and South Africa,” Sangakkara wrote in his exclusive column for ICC.
The Matale-born batsman Sangakkara has effusively praised Team India for putting up the significant performances in the recent past across all formats while expressing his satisfaction to see four Asian teams participating in the ICC’s mega event in England and Wales.
“This year we also have four Asian teams in the tournament and clearly India is current the pack-leaders in the region,” Sangakkara maintained.
The 39-year-old southpaw added Virat Kohli-led side is capable of retaining the title, as they had covered all their bases well.
“It [India] won in 2013 and it has a team capable of winning this year too. In fact, the team is arguably stronger, better balanced with real firepower in its fast bowling,” Sangakkara revealed.
Showing concern about the selection processes while terming it ‘conservative’ – the fluent stroke-maker Sangakkara believes India has a stronger unit to rely on, after claiming the Trophy in 2013, under the leadership of MS Dhoni.
“The only slight concern I have for India is that its selection was perhaps a little conservative, but it is still very strong,” Sangakkara remarked.
Sangakkara said the two slow-arm spinners have done remarkably well in the 50-over format, as he feels the 28-year-old skipper Virat Kohli, who will be leading his team for the first time in the global event is eyeing to make a strong form.
“Its [Team India] spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are exceptional in ODI cricket and I am sure Virat Kohli is going to be desperate to bounce-back after a disappointing IPL,” Sangakkara asserted.
Sangakkara feels England has been doing incredibly well, stating Eoin Morgan-led side is strengthened by players like all-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes.
“Ben Stokes is an outstanding all-rounder, and both he and Chris Woakes will have benefited from their time in the IPL,” Sangakkara opined.
Sangakkara also hailed England’s newly appointed Test skipper Joe Root and wicket-keeper batsman Jos Butler for giving their best with the bat which has further boosted the power-packed line-up of the Three Lions.
“England is playing an aggressive and exciting brand of cricket and it has some world-class players driving that. Joe Root and Jos Butler will drive the batting,” Sangakkara further added.
While calling multilateral event ‘extra special’, Sangakkara explains the teams are expected to give their best while stating it has witnessed the hard-fought contests in the recent past.
Sangakkara went on to admire the team efforts of Bangladesh, as they have shown quality all-round development, in the past two years, as Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has been backing his boys for putting up a good show which is the blend of experience and youth.
“Bangladesh is real dark horse. It comes into the tournament with a lot of hope and promise. What you see in Bangladesh right now is a growing confidence and enhanced game-awareness. It is learning how to win matches and that makes it very dangerous opponents,” Sangakkara wrote further.
While talking about his national team Sri Lanka, Sangakkara feels Angelo Mathew’s team has shown improvement in the batting department while stating the team is capable of beating any of the teams by showcasing their natural game.
“The batting unit has settled down a little in recent months and that has been good to see. They definitely have the capability to win against anyone if they play an exciting brand of cricket,” Sangakkara further added.
Sangakkara believes Pakistan has been bolstered by decent fast bowling department before posing a much-asked question about their batting department which has a history of being traditional in approach when it comes chasing down the totals, as he feels under the tutelage of Micky Arthur, Men in Green are learning through their way.
“Pakistan’s strength is its bowling. The pace attack is very threatening and its also has great spin options. The big question will be whether its batting unit is able to consistently fire and be able to chase down big totals,” Sangakkara believes.
Sangakkara was the part of Sri Lankan side in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2014 and also when they shared the coveted title of ICC Champions Trophy in 2002 with India.
Sangakkara has also been the player for Lanka, who participated in the final of ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 and 2011, respectively. For Sri Lanka, Sangakkara has featured in 404 ODIs, 134 Tests and 56 T20Is after making his debut in 2000.
May 30, 2017 at 08:21AM