Team India, under the leadership of M S Dhoni and the aegis of a number of its star performers, have won 10 T20 matches out of 11 this year. The team is in red-hot form in the shortest format of the game and is bound to start as one of the most serious contenders for the silverware.
India’s sustained run can be understood from a number of reasons, one of them being the arrival of Jasprit Bumrah. The unheralded 22 year old quick from Gujarat, with his copybook yorkers, yet an unorthodox action, has earned 15 wickets from 11 matches at an average of 16.20. It is apparent that the emerging fast-bowler has not allowed his nerves to crack, despite being inexperienced. Bumrah’s talent caught the attention of veteran John Wright in the Mumbai Indians team and has been the centre of attraction ever since. One cannot undermine the role played by Ashish Nehra, who has made an admirable comeback to the Indian T20 setup at the ripe old age of 36. Nehra, an old warhorse and a gallant fighter of many a battle, has put forward some incredible spells to prove his critics wrong. He has been a real surprise package with his bowling, and it is surprising to see how this lanky and slender pacer has managed to pull off this stunt at this stage of his career. Ever since he made his comeback against Australia at Adelaide, Ashish Nehra has taken 13 wickets at 19.92. He has been difficult to negotiate both with the new ball and old.
The bowling department’s ability to turn the table will spark interest among the fans who have forever known their batsmen to be the bankable stars. Starting from Adelaide, the bowling department has got 77 dismissals at 17.34. The bowlers performed superbly in the recently concluded Asia Cup, getting 32 wickets. Hardik Pandya topped the list with seven wickets.
The spin attack that India has, is probably the best in the world with both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja probably in the form of their lives and at the peak of their powers. The potential that these two bring to plate can be sufficiently explained by the fact that they are keeping at bay Harbhajan Singh, one of the leading off spinners the world has seen in the last two decades. Pawan Negi, a left arm spinner and hard hitting lower order batsman who is currently being touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket, will also be warming the benches.
The batting department is already very strong with the presence of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and the captain, M.S. Dhoni. All of them are proven campaigners and have often batted excellently in adverse situations to take their team out of the woods. The batting is also bolstered by the potential that Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, and Ravichandran Ashwin offer, if required.
India will begin their campaign against New Zealand, after a couple of warm-up games against West Indies and South Africa. The 4-1 loss against the Kiwis in New Zealand in 2014, should keep Dhoni wary and uncomplacent of the challenge they provide. Although the retirement of Brendon Mccullum might bring some relief in the Indian camp, one mustn’t forget the defeat against a depleted Sri Lankan side in Pune, earlier this year.
If we look back on how India was reluctant to join the T20 bandwagon in it’s initial phase, we would remember that it was M.S. Dhoni and his young team that changed the mindset in a matter of twelve days in South Africa, nine years back. It was the determination to showcase an aggressive brand of cricket, much like the triumphant team in the 1983 World Cup that changed things around for the perception of the format in India.
India has never disregarded and shied away from the T20 format, once it tasted victory in the inaugural edition of the World Cup. India has an impressive record of 62 percent win in all the 68 T20 matches it has featured in and has got a near 65 percent win record in 28 matches in the World Cup. However, it has only a 46 percent win record at home with seven wins and eight losses. However, with the resources at their disposal, and with the expectations soaring high among the fans to see the team winning the World Cup at home for the second time (the first being in the 2011 ODI version), it is probably time that the Indian team lived up to them.
Good luck Team India!
~ Saptak Ghosh
imgae courtesy: espncricinfo.com