India come into the tournament after failing to qualify for the final of the DLF Cup tri-series with Australia and the West Indies in Kuala Lumpur last month, winning just one match from four in that tournament, although one of their games against Australia was washed out.
A plus for the Indian side from the Champions Trophy warm up was the form of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar who was top scorer in the tournament with 222 runs from four innings at an average of 74.
Tendulkar’s 222 included an innings of 141 not out from 148 balls against the West Indies, which stamped his return from a six month break from the game due to shoulder surgery.
Speaking ahead of the opening match of the tournament, India’s captain Rahul Dravid said that the race for the one-day trophy was wide open, and that England were not to be underestimated.
“They have got some good match-winners and we are not going to take them lightly,” said Dravid
“Any of these teams can win not only this tournament, but actually go on and win the World Cup. So we are starting on a level playing field.”
England seem to be a team in disarray as they are missing key players Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones, and according to former batsman Geoff Boycott, injuries and lack of depth could hamper England’s chances.
“We don’t have the quality reserves to shore up the better players being injured,” Boycott told the BBC.
“The reserves do the best they can but it does lessen the team’s quality when you have too many fill-in players.”
“We’re without so many good cricketers and people are being moved around to fill gaps,” Boycott added.
England’s Andrew Flintoff (L) and
Hosts of the 2004 Champions Trophy, England made it all the way to the final only to lose against the West Indies, and have won just 16 of their 43 one-day matches since then.
“If we’ve got everybody fit, particularly Vaughan for his captaincy, we might be a lot better and be able to surprise ourselves that we’re quite a decent one-day side,” said Boycott.
Andrew Flintoff will captain England in Vaughn’s absence, with the young all-rounder receiving praise from his opposite number ahead of the opening match.
“He is an exciting cricketer to watch. It is always nice to see someone like Freddie do well – except against India,” said Dravid.
“I’d like to see him (Flintoff) fail as much as he can against us,” the Indian captain said in slight jest.
The biennial one-day tournament showcases the best eight one-day nations in a two-pool tournament with previous winners including the West Indies in 2004, New Zealand in 2001, with the trophy shared by Sri Lanka and India due to a washed out final in 2003.
This year, Pool A will be made up of Australia, England, India, and the West Indies, while Pool B will be comprised of New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Each side plays the other teams in their pool once, with the top two teams in each pool going through to the semi-finals.
The final of the Champions Trophy will be held in Mumbai on November 5.