The past few months have been utterly disastrous for the Indian team. It all started in South Africa, where the men in blue were thrashed in the ODI’s, and in the Durban Test. The touring party then headed for New Zealand, with some hope. But miserably, those hopes were conked out by the Kiwis. The Kiwis were ruthless in the ODI’s, and gave the tourists a complete hammering. Nothing great was expected from the Indian team, for the Asia Cup; as the team was highly inexperienced, and more significantly, without the services of MS Dhoni. As anticipated, the team couldn't even reach the finals, and were on their way to Mumbai even before the finals of the Asia Cup.
But now, there seems to be genuine hope for this bruised and dented team. The T20 World Cup is just around the corner, and to add the icing on the cake, the mega event is being hosted by Bangladesh. The conditions of Bangladesh are pretty similar to that of India. Lightening quick outfields, slow and low wickets, moderate boundary lengths and heavy purchase for spinners will surely ease the Indians to a great extent. And what’s more? India’s greatest match winner in limited overs and the best finisher are back into the team. Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni will be making a comeback to the side after being dropped and injured respectively.
Along with them, India’s most efficient T20 star will make a sort of a comeback as well. Suresh Raina. When these three get going, there’s no stopping them what-so-ever. The three of these swashbucklers, will form the core of the middle order, which was highly fragile in the recently concluded Asia Cup. However, the team management will have a colossal headache regarding the opening combination. Shikhar Dhawan, the Delhi dynamite is one certainty. But the identity of his opening partner remains a mystery. There is one spot, and there are two contenders up for the grab.
Rohit Sharma is the first candidate. Rohit Sharma, who is almost synonyms with the term talent (pun intended) has had moderate success as an opener. But the last few innings for him as an opener have been profusely disappointing. Rohit averages a mere 27.2 as an opener in the last 10 innings which he has played in. To add to his woes, Rohit has been extremely slow to start off. He tends to leave way too many deliveries. Sharma’s strike rate of 70.4 in his last 10 innings as an opener has been even more disappointing than his average. The two stats on combining leave behind a sorry tale of Sharma. On analysing his performance, it is evident that he not only starts off slowly, but also falls cheaply and that too after getting set. If Rohit consumes so many deliveries, and then makes use of the start by getting to a big individual score, then it’s a different thing all together. But it’s completely useless if he plays so many deliveries and then throws it off by playing a rash shot. The slow starts by Sharma even add extra burden on Shikhar Dhawan, who then has to make up for the slow progress from the other end.
Rohit’s competitor for the opening slot is Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane had a dream debut for India, against England in the T20 played at the Old Trafford. Post that brilliance, Rahane has looked off colour for India whenever he played T20I’s. The one aspect in his favour would be his recent form, which is much better than Rohit. Against Afghanistan, Ajinkya was asked to open, and surely did his chances no harm, by scoring a fluent half century. His IPL and CLT20 stats too boost his chances of selection. An IPL average of 38, on any given day should be your passport to the playing eleven. Rahane has a similar shortfall to that of Rohit. Both are highly inconsistent, when it comes to donning the Indian outfit. Choosing between the two is really difficult, but most likely; it will be Rohit, who will feature against Pakistan on the 21st as an opener.
A third opening combination is also possible, and the team management may gamble on it. The Delhi dashers, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan may be asked to open, with Rohit being employed to finish the innings with a flourish, as he has done it for his IPL franchise. But this combination seems highly unlikely.
STRENGTH: The strength of the Indian team lies in the batting. Shikhar Dhawan in his current form can take the game away from the opposition single- handedly. Virat Kohli’s form needs no introduction. The freakish numbers speak for themselves. Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh are the safest middle order bets in T20 cricket. The Yuvi-Raina combo is so destructive that the two of them can change the outlook of the match, within the span of a few deliveries. Yuvraj’s previous two T20 scores are as follows: 77*(35); 72(36). Both these knocks were scored against quality bowling attacks of Australia and Pakistan respectively. MS Dhoni’s finishing abilities have spared no bowler, and no target is big enough against the world’s most dangerous batsman. ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja too can finish with a flurry. The Indian batting is so burly that no total is safe against them.
WEAKNESS: Unfortunately, the strong batting set up has numerously been let down by the appalling bowling efforts. Whenever the terms “helpless” and “hopeless” have been associated with Indian cricket, it’s been for their bowling. The efforts of the batsmen will be absolutely worthless, if the bowlers do not cease their embarrassing performances. Another source of worry for the Indians is that the bowler, who is to lead the attack, hasn’t even made his T20I debut yet! Shocking! Isn’t it? Experience has been another issue for this team. India has played just one T20I,in the last 440 days. In the same time frame, Pakistan have played 12 T20I’s.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
If his current form is anything to go by, then the signs are encouraging. The onus will be on Shikhar Dhawan to lay a solid platform, and also to take India off to blazing starts. His starts will be really crucial for the team. The middle order batsmen can express themselves freely, if Dhawan is in his usual flow.
All eyes will be on the comeback man, and India’s best T20 player. Yuvraj will have to break the shackles and ensure that the team posts a healthy total. While chasing, Yuvi’s hard and disparaging hitting will come into the picture, if the required rate is on the higher side. Along with his astounding hitting ability, his part time tweaks will also be crucial. In the previous edition of the T20 WC, Yuvi got India the momentous breakthroughs. It will be a delight for MS Dhoni, if he does that again.
‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja has been in great form, with the bat as well as with the ball. His bowling has won India many games, and the team will need his magic to win games. Jadeja’s inclination towards taking wickets at critical junctures in the game played a major role in India’s triumphant Champions Trophy campaign. Similar results are expected off him, if India are to win this edition of the T20 WC. His batting will come in handy as well.
Ashwin’s T20 international figures have been horrendous, and defy his match winning qualities. Nothing like the world cup platform to redeem himself, and set the record straight. Ashwin, with his variations will come in handy, on the Bangladeshi wickets, which will assist him. His skill of containing and taking wickets may make the difference at the end of the day between a win and a loss for India.
CHANCES OF WINNING: HIGH
As of now, Indians are the clear favourites to win the title after Australia. The Australians on current form, are way ahead than any other team. But India can expect stiff competition from the team of mercurial men, Pakistan. Sri Lanka too can never be written off in an ICC Event. India though, are the second favourites to lift the fifth edition of the ICC World T20. Only time will tell though, if that’s the case.