The teams come out on the pitch for the start of the ICC Champions trophy cricket match between England and Bangladesh at The Oval in London on June 1, 2017. Image Credit: AFP

GROUP A

England have the best credentials to make it third-time lucky as the hosts aim to grab their maiden major 50-over title. After losing the last Champions Trophy final to India and the Twenty20 World Cup, England will be eager to make amends for the near misses and they have the right ammunition to be rated one of the favourites for the trophy.

Strengths: England will be having a spring in their steps as the event is held at home, where generally the Three Lions are a different beast. Most of the English players had good preparations in the Indian Premier League, where they managed to get some good performances under their belt. Ben Stokes will be the linchpin for England, who also boast of Joe Root, Eoin Morgan andJos Buttler. The team is filled with talented all-rounders and aggressive batsmen who gives the hosts real depth. The new belief under skipper Morgan makes them one of the favourites to advance to the next stage.

Weaknesses: The hosts lack a strike bowler who could give the hosts the edge at the start, much akin to the England great James Anderson. Unless the batsmen give a big score, it will be difficult for the bowlers to contain the rivals, as exposed by the recent series against South Africa.

Squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

  • Player to watch: Ben Stokes
  • Position: All-rounder
  • Ranking: 7

 

Australia, the defending World Champions in the 50-over format have the right mix of aggressive batsmen, who are capable of taking the match away from right under the rivals’ nose, besides attacking pace bowlers who can swing the match in their favour in favourable conditions. This can put them on course for a third title.

Strengths: With the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Chris Lynn, who was in great form in the Indian Premier League, at the top of the batting order, the Australians will look to put rival bowlers on the back foot by going for broke. Skipper Steve Smith has the temperament to play according to the need of the hour and lend stability. The bowling depart wears a varied look that gives Smith the added advantage.

Weaknesses: An obsession to play attacking cricket could be detrimental to the cause of the team. Players like Glenn Maxwell have the capability to dominate any bowling attack, but his temperament, rather lack of patience, have more often than not has caused his downfall. In fact, most Australian batsmen are guilty in this regard.

Squad: Steven Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

  • Player to watch: David Warner
  • Position: Left-handed batsman
  • Ranking: 2

 

Bangladesh might begin the tournament as the underdogs in their group, but if one looks at their record over the last couple of years, they have beaten some of the best in the business including India, South Africa and England. They are no pushovers and are far ahead of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and former giants West Indies, who sadly failed to qualify for the event through rankings.

Strengths: Bangladesh have a balanced team that can spring a surprise on their day. Left-handed opener Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah form the backbone of the batting unit with the wily Shakib Al Hassan, the No. 1 all-rounder in the world, and Shabir Rahman completing the formidable line-up. Left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman brings extra fizz to the newfound belief that makes the Tigers ready to pounce on their rivals. The left-arm pacer is such an asset to the team that he has been preserved to avoid injuries and burnout.

Weakness: The team’s big-match temperament is still under question, especially after the 2015 World Cup quarterfinalists lost from a winning position to India in the World Twenty20 last year. This is the chance for Bangladesh to show the world that they are not paper tigers.

Squad: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hassan, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmad, Sunzamul Islam, Mehedi Hassan, Shafiul Islam.

  • Player to watch: Shakib Al Hassan
  • Position: All-rounder
  • Ranking: 1

 

The Black Caps, who won the second edition of the event when it was called the ICC Knockout Trophy in Kenya 17 years ago, have not managed to replicate that feat. Though they have the players capable of taking them the distance, they have not quite lived up to the potential, especially away from home.

Strengths: Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi and Corey Anderson are some of the best batsmen in limited overs cricket, but the team’s batting mainly revolves around the form of skipper Kane Williamson, who is a class act in all formats of the game, and the dangerous Ross Taylor. The bowling looks stronger than the batting and is led by the experienced duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee with Adam Milne, James Neesham and Mitchell Santner all masters at keeping the batsmen in check in the shorter formats.

Weaknesses: The retirement of Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori has left a big vacuum in the batting and the replacements have not quite filled in the big boots as much as the team management would have liked them to do. Hence the middle order batting looks immensely vulnerable, should a couple of early wickets go down.

Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

  • Player to watch: Kane Williamson
  • Position: Right-handed batsman
  • Ranking: 9

 

GROUP B

India, the defending champions will have their task cut out to retain the crown despite have a batting line-up that now has a rich pool of specialists in the shorter format, thanks to the high-quality Indian Premier League. It will be a big test for captain Virat Kohli as this is his first major assignment and he will have plenty to prove as a batsman and the captain.

Strengths: Though India have a strong batting that revolves around Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan with Yuvraj and Dhoni to launch the late assault, what is more heartening is the fact that the bowling department, generally the weak area for India, wears a healthy look and the players will face a stiff competition to get into the playing XI.

Weaknesses: Despite boasting one of the best array of batsmen, most of these stars are entering the Champions Trophy after lacklustre performances in the Indian Premier League. Barring an odd knock they have mostly they have failed to fire on a consistent basis. One batting slot in the middle order, likely to be filled by one among Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik, looks vulnerable, which could prove the vital cog in India’s wheel.

Squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami.

  • Player to watch: Virat Kohli
  • Position: Right-handed batsman
  • Ranking: 3

 

This is the only tournament South Africa have managed to win as they bid to shed the choker’s tag in global events. It is still a mystery how a team with so many talented players time and again stumble in crucial games. Skipper AB de Villiers will be eager to grab the trophy once again for South Africa, who won the inaugural edition in Bangladesh in 1998. The Proteas stand a good chance to make the semi-finals from the group.

Strengths: A batting line-up led by De Villiers that has some seven or eight batsmen who could win the match single-handedly including Hashim Amla, who scored two centuries in the Indian Premier League, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Quinton de Kock and all-rounders like JP Duminy and Chris Morris. The bowling boasts depth and the variety and includes Kagiso Rabada, the top-ranked bowler in the world, Morris and the old fox Imran Tahir. The leg-spinner not only controls the run flow in the middle overs, he also gets the vital breakthroughs to spoil rivals’ plans.

Weaknesses: If past performances are anything to go by, it is the ability, or the lack of it, to handle pressure that has been the biggest weakness of the Proteas. Mental toughness is a prerequisite to go all the way in tough contests, and skipper De Villiers will surely be guarded in his approach in ensuring that they don’t lose their way in crunch games.

Squad: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.

  • Player to watch: AB de Villiers
  • Position: Right-handed batsman
  • Ranking: 1

 

Pakistan, the former World champions will be eager to prove critics wrong in an event where they do not have a good record. Pakistan are one of the two teams who have not won the trophy in the past seven editions. They also face an uphill task to set the record straight as the lack of home games over the years have affected the team’s rankings and robbed the players of valuable experience. A good performance in the tournament, in which they kick off their campaign against arch-rivals India, will augur well for the team’s future.

Strengths: The naturally talented bunch of players, which the country has always produced over the years, has always been a cause of worry for their rivals. Mohammad Hafeez and all-rounder Shoaib Malek are the veterans who will be the central characters in guiding the young team. However, it is the bowling unit, which as always is Pakistan’s strength, and is led by left-armers Amir and Riaz and Junaid Khan. Amir will once again be eager to prove his worth and redeem lost pride as he turns up for his country.

Weaknesses: Missing key players like Umar Akmal to injury and the tall left-arm pacer Mohammad Irfan to the match-fixing saga have dealt a bigger blow to the fortunes of a team that is already missing veterans like Afridi, Misbah and Younis. The lack of experience could work against them in tight games. Another factor that has affected the team over the years is the lack of consistent performances from players — they can produce a masterclass one day and play like complete novices the next.

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmad (captain), Azhar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malek, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Fahim Ashraf, Babar Azam, Ahmad Shehzad.

  • Player to watch: Mohammad Amir
  • Position: Left-arm pacer
  • Ranking: 38

Sri Lanka start as underdogs after the retirements of legends like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have left the team in tatters They are still in rebuilding mode and some new talents have been blooded. Sri Lanka are no longer a force to reckon with and will need to perform beyond expectations to advance to the next grade in an event that does not offer any room for error.

Strengths: In Angelo Mathews, the team have one of the best all-rounders in the game today with able support from Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Kapugedera and Niroshan Dickwella and new players like Asela Gunaratne, who caught the eye with a stunning show against Australia. But the main weapon is the veteran pacer Lasith Malinga, who could be lethal either at the beginning of the innings or at the death. Chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan could be the trumpcard the islanders could unleash to their advantage.

Weaknesses: Both batting and bowling lack depth to put the pressure on rivals as the team is heavily dependent on a few individual stars who have been part of the winning unit of the past. While the batsmen are a little inexperienced, the bowling in the middle overs too could let rivals run away with the initiative.

Squad: Angelo Mathews (captain), Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna.

  • Player to watch: Angelo Mathews
  • Position: All-rounder
  • Ranking: 5