Two Asian neighbours, a long-standing cricketing history and finals of an ICC event — sounds like a perfect recipe for a cricketing encounter. Arch rivals India and Pakistan clash in the finals of the Champions Trophy on Sunday at the Kennington Oval in London. As India look to defend their crown, and Pakistan to win their first Champions Trophy, the stakes cannot get any higher. This is also the first time in 10 years that the two neighbours are facing each other in the finals of an ICC event. India won the last encounter, the finals of the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007. The latest edition of the tournament, featuring top eight teams from the world, has lived up to the expectations and hype it has created over the years.
Despite a number of matches being affected due to rain, the tournament has seen some quality cricket — both in terms of individual and team efforts. The event saw Bangladesh qualify for their first semi-final appearance in an ICC event. Pakistan, the lowest ranked team to enter the competition, made their way into the finals after beating favourites England comprehensively. The ICC event, touted as a ‘mini world cup’, has been known to act as a platform, both for new faces and the ones struggling with form. This year’s event was no different. We pick some players to look out for in the final.
Bhuvi & Bumrah : The India bowling attack has been spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. On batsmen-friendly pitches, where the white ball has not swung much, they have been immaculate with their line and length, stifling batsmen for runs and collectively picking 10 wickets. India has been waiting to find a pace duo that can bowl under any conditions, and with the duo, the wait seems to be over.
Shikhar Dhawan: Shikhar Dhawan became the fastest batsman to score a thousand runs in ICC tournaments. He took only 16 innings to do so, while Tendulkar took 18. His love affair with ICC events is nothing new. He has scored 10 centuries so far, of which five have come in ICC tournaments. Coming from an injury break and a not-so-spectacular IPL season, Dhawan took no time to get back on track. Along with partner Rohit Sharma, he has given India a headstart every time they have taken guard. Virat Kohli would want him to continue his fine run when India face Pakistan in the finals.
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Sarfraz Ahmed: Sarfraz Ahmed was given the reigns of the national team for the 50-over format in 2015, interestingly almost a decade later after he took the Pakistan U-19 team to victory in the world cup. Pakistan entered the Champions Trophy as the bottom-ranked team, but Ahmed led the team from the front, propelling them into the finals. After a 124-run defeat against India in their opening tie, Ahmed has scripted a remarkable turnaround. He has marshalled his troops well, making changes in the bowling and batting line-ups. Can he take his team over the finishing line in the final against India?
– By Gaurab Dasgupta