India has psychological edge over England
Having beaten England 6-1 at home, India will be the favourites to win their opening group match.Updated: Oct 14, 2006 16:17 IST
India will have a major psychological advantage over England when they clash in the opening match of the main round of the Champions Trophy in Jaipur on Sunday.
Having thrashed England 6-1 in March-April at home, India will be the favourites to win their opening Group A day-night game at the Swai Man Singh Stadium.
If India play up to their potential and collect full points, Rahul Dravid's side will make its passage to the semi-finals much easily as they are also to play Australia as well as the winner of Saturday's West Indies-Sri Lanka game in Mumbai in their next two matches.
But there are several pluses that the Greg Chappell-coached team will be taking heart from as they go into the match: Sachin Tendulkar's return to form, familiar home ground and conditions, in-form bowlers, win in previous matches at this venue, and warm weather.
And within the Indian team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will particularly be high on confidence, more than any of his team mates, as he had slammed a record unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka at this very ground in November 2005. That knock had helped him aggregate 346 runs - the highest on either side - in that series and bag the Man of the Series award.
Andrew Flintoff's boys will be aware and wary of the Dhoni edge, and if they start a bit defensively at the completely refurbished ground it should not come as a surprise. They have been based here for a few days, like the Indians, and must have got familiar with the weather and conditions to an extent.
The Indian team has also been practising here for a few days. In a warm-up game against a local side Dhoni made 90 runs and Virender Sehwag, a century.
It must be a good augury for vice-captain Sehwag as the runs had deserted him in the recent DLF Cup tri-series in Kuala Lumpur, just after he found his feet in June-July with two 90-plus knocks in the West Indies.
But he is a kind of player who can come back to form any time. West Indies great Vivian Richards acknowledges that even an out-of-form Sehwag is a potential threat to the opposition.
Two matches of the Champions Trophy qualifying round - from which defending champions West Indies and Sri Lanka have progressed to the main draw - have been played at the Swai Man Singh Stadium and it is expected that the pitch would have settled down well by now.
England, on the other hand, would be equally keen to wipe out the two bad memories: the mauling received at the hands of India in March-April, and the previous Champions Trophy played in their backyard in 2004. They looked all set to clinch the title, but Brian Lara's West Indies made a remarkable late charge to deprive them in the final at The Oval, London.
That must have hurt then captain Michael Vaughan, who is now out with a knee injury. His absence means Flintoff, who also led the side on the Indian tour this year, will again be the captain looking for the elusive Champions Trophy triumph. Of course, many of his players would bring in the experience of the previous tour undertaken six months ago, and that should stand them in good stead.
Although Jaipur has been warm in the last few days, the English players are not expected to complain as it promises to be a shade better than the warm conditions in which they played the one-day series in April.
India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Mongia, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel and Ajit Agarkar
England: Andrew Flintoff (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke, Paul Collingwood, James Dalrymple, Steve Harmison, Ed Joyce, Sajid Mahmood, Jon Lewis, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Read (wicket-keeper), Andrew Strauss and Michael Yardy
Umpires: Simon Taufel and Daryl Harper (both Australia)
Third umpire: Billy Bowden (New Zealand)
Fourth umpire: Steve Bucknor (West Indies)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
First Published: Oct 14, 2006 12:53 IST