ICC Champions Trophy: Five reasons to back India to win it

The familiar sight of Virat Kohli reaching another landmark.
The familiar sight of Virat Kohli reaching another landmark.

The Champions Trophy is almost here and England, in their own conditions, are jollies. But you can forget about them, plus second-and third-favourites Australia and South Africa, says Jamie Pacheco, who is backing India at a tasty price. Here's why...

'You’re not going to win this tournament if you don’t make it out of your group. Given these are the world’s Top 8 teams, there are no gimmes here. So it’s a good thing India have the easier group of the two.'

The ICC Champions Trophy winner market on Betfair has England as 4.03/1 favourites. In their beloved home conditions they're fancied to make the most of any swing available when they're bowling while their much-vaunted batting line up of boundary-hitters is expected to chase anything or set targets so big that they defend them one way or another.

Next up the 2015 World Champions Australia at 4.57/2 and just after them South Africa at 4.77/2. Lingering in the fourth position on this market are India at 5.79/2. They're the ones to back. Here are five reasons to do just that...

1) Same tournament, same place, same team

Four years ago this tournament was staged in England, too. Going by the odds on offer here, you could have been excused for thinking India hadn't won it. But they did.

In a rain-affected final that essentially became a T20 game, they beat the hosts England after setting Alastair Cook's men 130 to chase. Of the 11 who played for India that day, nine of them are in this year's squad and all nine could easily make the side.

This time round they have the brilliant death bowler Jasprit Bumrah in place of the talented but inconsistent Ishant Sharma while Ajnka Rahane is likely to fill the spot occupied by Suresh Raina last time out so are arguably even stronger. Why can't this lot just go out and do it all over again?

2) Indian players not liking English conditions is a myth

The cliche goes: 'Indian batsmen love true pitches with small boundaries where they can bully bowlers while their own bowlers love dustbowls where the spinners come on and leave opposition batters tied in knots'. True to an extent but far more the case in Test cricket.

And if Indian players don't relish English conditions, then why did Shikhar Dhawan end the 2013 edition as player of the tournament after scoring 363 runs, 134 more than anyone else?

Similarly, you wouldn't think England was the place for a slow left-arm orthodox bowler to thrive yet it didn't stop Ravindra Jadeja taking 12 wickets, more than any other bowler. Go back to the previous 50-over competition staged in England, the 1999 World Cup and it was another Indian batsman topping the scoring charts. You might have heard of him: Rahul Dravid.

3) They're in the easier group

You're not going to win this tournament if you don't make it out of your group. Given these are the world's Top eight teams, there are no gimmes here. So it's a good thing India have the easier group of the two.

Pakistan are the lowest-ranked of the sides at the tournament and as ever, you never know what you're going to get with them. They'll be dangerous with the ball as per usual but there's not much to like about their batting. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed is a typically busy batsman as all keepers are, Babar Azam has started his international career well and Azhar Ali can hold an innings together. But that's about it.

Sri Lanka are (as has seemed the case for the last three years) a side in transition. Lasith Malinga is still brilliant on his day but unlikely to last the distance, Dinesh Chandimal has all the moves but is inconsistent, Niroshan Dickwella could become a fine player and Kusal Perera isn't one to die wondering. But sooner or later they'll be put into bat in bowling conditions and could be 5 down for not many very quickly with a batting line-up not used to playing over here.

As for South Africa, their top four of Amla, de Kock, du Plessis and de Villiers is as good as anyone's. But their middle order, likely to be packed with all-rounders, isn't. Nor is their reputation for handling the big moments.

4) Match-fit from the IPL

India are understandably the only side whose players (with the exception of Ravi Ashwin who was rested for the tournament) all featured in the IPL. Yes, the conditions were very different and so was the format (even though the lines between 20 and 50 over format are getting more and more blurred).

But there's no substitute for playing hard, competitive, every-match-matters cricket when you're coming into a tournament. While other sides might be a little rusty, India come into it match-fit yet not knackered. After all, if you get too tired playing T20, you shouldn't be playing the game at all at this level.

5) They have Kohli

Indian skipper Virat Kohli may 'only' be ranked third in the ODI rankings for batsmen but he's arguably the most prized wicket in the game. And boy, does he love a big tournament. He had a somewhat lean spell in this year's IPL by his standards but was top batsman and player of the tournament in last year's T20 World Cup, the one before that in 2014 and the 2016 edition of the IPL.

He'll be seething after their semi-final loss to the Windies on home soil in last year's T20 WC and desperate to make amends for that.
And a fired-up Kohli with a point to prove is a very dangerous weapon indeed.

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Back India to win the Champions Trophy @ 5.79/2

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