Bowlers give India strong chance to defend CT title: Laxman

New Delhi: Terming young pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as among the best death overs bowlers in world cricket, former star batsman V.V.S Laxman said a powerful bowling line-up gives India a strong chance to defend their Champions Trophy title.

Laxman said that skipper Virat Kohli will be depending on these two bowlers because of their current form and the pace-friendly conditions in England which will host the Champions Trophy from June 1 to 18.

Kumar scalped three wickets in each of the two warm-up matches that India played against New Zealand and Bangladesh while Bumrah was economical.

“India has got four quality fast bowlers and along with that they have got two quality spinners in (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja; it’s important to pick up wickets not only with the new ball but also with the middle overs.

“And I believe that Virat Kohli will depend a lot on Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, possibly two of the best death bowlers in world cricket, to bowl well at the end,” Laxman told IANS.

“So I think Virat Kohli has got luxury and options from which he can choose the best playing combination depending on the surfaces the team is going to play on and also the weather conditions.

“I believe that India has got a very good chance of defending the Champions Trophy. The way they played in both the warm-up games, the batsmen are in good form, but the bowlers have been very ruthless,” the former right-handed batsman added.

India are placed in Group B along with Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The defending champions will start their Champions Trophy campaign on June 4 against arch-rivals Pakistan at Edgbaston.

Laxman also said that the much-awaited match against Pakistan will be a high profile one because of the fact that India rarely play against their arch-rivals.

“The expectations of the countrymen of both countries will be really high but as far as Virat Kohli and his team are concerned, I’m sure his message to the team would be, go out, just keep aside all the distractions from outside and just look to focus on the target and the task at hand — and go out and express yourself, play your natural game,” the 42-year-old said.

“And I believe that once they do that, they have got the ability and the potential to not only beat Pakistan but to also retain the Champion’s Trophy,” he added.

India will play their next two matches at The Oval in London, against the Lankans on June 8 and then South Africa on June 11.

The veteran batsman also praised Kohli for his attacking game and said its good to see him playing like this.

India defeated New Zealand by 45-runs in the first warm-up game and then outplayed Bangladesh by 240-runs in the second tie. And in both the games, India managed to bundle out the opposition inside 40 overs.

“Virat as a captain was very attacking, because to bowl out both New Zealand and Bangladesh in that fashion, and the way they were getting the wickets, it was really heartening to see,” Laxman said.

In the second match, opener Shikhar Dhawan (60) and wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik (94 retired hurt) put on a 100-run stand for the third wicket before all-rounder Hardik Pandya smashed a 54-ball unbeaten 80 to propel India to a mammoth 324/7.

Laxman praised the Indian batsmen for showing the temperament and skills in English conditions.

“It was really good to see the way Dinesh Karthik, Shikhar Dhawan, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja and even Virat Kohli in the first match against New Zealand bat,” Laxman said.

“You know it’s very important when you are playing in English conditions to play close to your body and play late.”

“You cannot reach out or play the shots away from your body and so it’s also important to assess the conditions, not only the pitch conditions but also the weather conditions which can change dramatically during the day,” he added.

Former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri had earlier said that the Champions Trophy is only an overdose of cricket for the audience and equally hard on the players. When asked about the importance of the tournament Laxman differed from his former teammate’s comment.

“I always felt that the Champion’s Trophy is a very good tournament, it is always treated like a mini World Cup,” Laxman said.

“This time it is going to be short and crisp, with only eight teams involved so it is going to be a highly competitive tournament and I think there are 4-5 contenders who can win the trophy,” he added.

Laxman also named his four semi-finalists of the tournament.

“For me the four semi-finalists would be England, Australia, South Africa and India and whichever team plays well on that particular day will win the championship but it is going to be highly competitive tournament,” Laxman concluded.