Michael Vaughan, Andrew Symonds and Wasim Akram – all of them are much more confident than the Indian fans themselves about their team winning the World T20. Well, the experts go by the team on paper and the fans go by the recent catastrophes overseas.
MS Dhoni and his men will look to leave their recent miseries abroad behind them to start afresh when they take on Pakistan in their opening encounter in a bid to reclaim the World T20 championship after a dry spell of 7 years. The batting department looks imperiously threatening – probably the best that India has had in World T20s.
It’s been a while since Captain Dhoni has had the problem of plenty. Finally, he has that in the batting department. There are three able candidates to open the batting – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Ajinkya Rahane. Rohit and Shikhar have been opening the batting in ODIs, with success, for about a year now. They have partnered just once in T20Is, though. In their sole T20I as openers, they managed to add merely 12 runs against Australia.
However, both mentioned boast of enviable IPL record. Dhawan has accumulated 1851 IPL runs at 32.47, striking 122.42 runs of every 100 balls. On the other hand, Rohit has registered 2513 runs at 129.66; the strike rate being 129.66. The only contrast between the two is their batting positions. While the former has opened the innings for almost all teams he has represented; the latter has batted at Nos. 4,5, and 6 for his sides.
Here is where Ajinkya Rahane’s contention crops up. He opens in the IPL and presents solidity at the top of the order. His IPL strike rates of 106.55 and 129.33 in the previous two seasons don’t appear fascinating enough. Having said that, he averages 34.85 and 40.00 respectively in the said seasons, speaking highly of his consistency.
There will be a temptation to utilize Rohit Sharma at no.4 given his spectacular show for Mumbai Indians at that position. That temptation doesn’t seem to materialize, in all probability, given the presence of better floaters in the side.
“How well India performs in a tournament?” Well, this question, lately, has translated to – “How well Virat Kohli performs?” Without the least inch of doubt, this has to change if India are to win this World T20. Surely Virat is the bigwig in the Indian batting order irrespective of the format.
Early on in his career, Virat was labelled as someone who won’t thrive in the shortest version. All the same, he had a sound technique and tenacious temperament. No wonder why, his T20I average is about 35 with a strike rate of a touch over 130. In effect, Virat can come in and hit the top gear, forthwith, when provided with a solid opening partnership.
The middle order vaunts of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni – all of whom are capable finishers. The slam-bang Yuvraj Singh is on a comeback trail for the third time in the last one-and –a-half years. On each of the previous two comeback games, he went on to exhibit a sensational blitz only to fade away somewhere in the dark, subsequently. Indian fans will hope and pray that history doesn’t repeat itself in that sense.
Suresh Raina, too, is on a comeback trail. His presence in the limited-overs fold becomes extremely crucial due to his multifarious utility. Raina would have taken Bagladeshi conditions to make a comeback on any given day after the short-pitched trauma he was subjected to by the pacy Mitchell Johnson in the 7-match ODI series against the Kangaroos back home. Moreover, the tips from former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly would come handy.
A fresh Mahendra Singh Dhoni returns after a much needed break due to a side-strain. He will form the crux of the batting order along with Virat Kohli. While the openers have blown hot and cold of late, returning Yuvraj and Raina will be a bit nervy.
This factor, however, doesn’t undermine the duo’s potency. The two have done ever so well in Vijay Hazare Trophy and will be intensely anxious to respond to their critics by the means of their blade.
The other batsmen have to assume a larger chunk of the responsibility and ensure Dhoni isn’t left with too much to do in the slog overs – particularly given the fact that Dhoni wasn’t able to pull off any game in New Zealand due to the lack of a recognized bat at the other end.
As far as the bowling arsenal is concerned, the spin triplets – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra will be India’s trump cards on the dry surfaces in Bangladesh. Amit Mishra hasn’t had the privilege of skipper’s backing, which has reduced him to a tourist for over a year.
Come 21st of this month and there might be a different script unfolding altogether. The seasoned tweaker Mishra proved his mettle in the Asia Cup, which otherwise was a dismal campaign altogether for the Indian team.
If Dhoni remains adamant as far as Mishra is concened, the swashbuckling Stuart Binny may fancy his chances. His selection would not only further the destructiveness of the batting lineup, but also will furnish 4 dibbly-dobbly overs – perfectly fitting for the slugglish pitches with low bounce.
Meanwhile, the biggest headache for Dhoni will be the pace- bowling department. Mohammad Shami has been the carrying the burden single-handedly for the past year or so. He has been notching up bucketloads of wickets, but at some cost. He will certainly be better off hitting the block hole much more consistently.
Bhuvneshwar kumar has been failing to pick wickets upfront. If that wasn’t enough, he gets launched into the stands with ease at the death. Therefore, the CSKian Mohit Sharma may stand a chance. He is quite capable to bowl through his quota of 4 overs upfront. Sharma has the knack of picking up early wickets – something Bhuvi seems to be getting rid of. Moreover, he’s economical too, which augurs well for his selection in this format.
Varun Aaron is likely to be carrying drinks all along the tourney as his race pace was ‘exactly what the doctor ordered’ for the batsman!
Unlike ODIs, Dhoni will have the cushion of 5 fielders outside the ring at all times during non-powerplay overs. This means that Dhoni can resort back to his trademark style of captaincy involving clever usage of part-timers like Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.
Perhaps, he may play the extra batsman in Stuart Binny or Ajinkya Rahane by sacrificing a mainstream bowler. It would be interesting to see whether Dhoni gambles by doing so or not.
The pundits are terming the Indian bowling attack as spineless considering their recent shambles abroad. It is spineless indeed, but not within the subcontinent, by any stretch of imagination. Moreover, Amit Mishra, the X-factor, can wreck havoc with all his subtle varieties, if given a go.
The Indian batting is looking strong as ever, on paper. As long as this department clicks to perfection, there’ll be no stopping the tricolor from soaring high, even if the bowlers manifest an average show.
Sportz Cosmos XI : Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(c), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.