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Can Windies take second champions’ trophy?

Can Windies take second champions’ trophy?

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World T20 champion team, the West Indies, will this week embark on a three-week quest for further cricket glory, trying to add the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Champions’ Trophy to its T20 title.{{more}}

This year’s Champions’ Trophy is being held in the United Kingdom, with the final scheduled for Edgbaston, Birmingham, on June 23.

It is the seventh, and last, in this series, which began in 1998, for the ICC has decided to scrap it in favour of a new international Test championship.

Unfortunately, the actual tournament is being held at a time of much scandal surrounding world cricket, from developments in the money-spinning Indian Professional League (IPL). These revolve around match-fixing allegations, which have resulted in the detention of three Indian cricketers and rumours of investigations of many others, cricketers and officials alike.

So big is the scandal that it has had repercussions right at the level of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

President Mr N. Srinivasan has been forced to step down until an investigation into the scandal is complete. In a twist of fate, Jagmohan Dalmiya, a former president of both the ICC and BCCI, and the man credited with the Champions’ Trophy idea, has been asked to take over the day-to-day operations of the BCCI. Dalmiya was himself expelled from the BCCI on corruption charges in 2006, but has clawed his way back to president of one of the powerful state bodies in Bengal.

Those events, however, have not dampened enthusiasm in the Caribbean, amidst hopes for a continuation of recent progress. While the performance of the West Indies at the 50-over level has not been good (the team is the lowest-ranked among the competing nations), the team has solid credentials in this competition, with a spectacular win in 2004 and being runner-up in 1998 and 2007.

In addition, there is much confidence in the West Indies camp as a result of impressive performances by its leading players in the recently completed IPL. Kieron Pollard played a leading role in his team’s IPL victory; Chris Gayle was the most outstanding batsman with some spectacular innings; new skipper Dwayne Bravo took the most wickets; Narine continued taking wickets at an economical rate; and Test and T20 captain Darren Sammy proved his worth on his IPL debut.

They form a solid, experienced core, which will be strengthened by the likes of the prolific Marlon Samuels, the aggressive Jonson Charles and the pace and guile of Kemar Roach and Rampaul. Much will depend on how the players adapt to the vagaries of the British weather, as much as on the performances of the other competing teams.

The West Indies are in Group B, alongside India, world champions in this form of the game and currently ranked No.1 in the world; South Africa, rated third; and the dangerous Pakistan. Making the semi-finals out of this group will be quite a challenge, but not beyond the Caribbean players.

In the other group, Australia, the winner of the last two Champions’ Trophy competitions, and ranked only below India, will fancy its chances of at least a semi-final place. Its opponents are Sri Lanka, not quite the force of the Muralitharan era, hosts England and New Zealand.

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