Mar 13, 2016

Assessing India's chances for the World T20 2016

The World T20 is here! And it's IN India! The first round of matches played between the "smaller teams" just got over. Keeping aside the rain which played spoilsport, the matches were really entertaining, with Bangladesh qualifying to India's group, and Afghanistan going to to the other one.

Now that the main games are about to take place, Team India will be in the spotlight, and I'm hoping there will not be too much of pressure on them, since they have been called "favorites" by many, and they are the hosts. But why would not there be so much of confidence in this side? The Asia Cup recently got over, and India are in GREAT form, as they were crowned "Asian Champions". This has been a great start to 2016 on the whole, especially after facing a 4-1 loss to Australia in the ODI series. But ever since that 5th ODI, India have been on top, whitewashing Australia in the 3 T20Is which followed. The question remains: can India lift the World Cup trophy this year? Let's look at what might work in their favor.

A new and settled side

Here are the eleven players India have been persisting in T20s with since the beginning of 2016 (barring the few matches, where we tested a different line-up):

1. Dhawan 2. Sharma 3. Kohli 4. Raina 5. Yuvraj 6. Pandya 7. Dhoni 8. Jadeja 9. Ashwin 10. Bumrah 11. Nehra

If either of the batsmen are injured or dropped, we also have the key element of Ajinkya Rahane being in the squad. The same applies for Harbhajan and Shami, as they can be introduced in the bowling line-up, if the circumstances require it.

The revamped bowling line-up

While the bowling was an area of concern for India, it almost seems like the situation has been resolved. What's interesting here, is that we have a very different-looking line-up. There is no Umesh Yadav or Varun Aaron, and the once-famous duo Shami and Bhuvneshwar have not featured in the team for a while. The former (who is part of the 15-man squad) having gone through injury problems, and the latter simply not finding a place in the side. Why? We now have Bumrah, Pandya and Nehra as our main frontline bowlers, with Ashwin and Jadeja for the spin attack. Bumrah can bowl some great yorkers in the death overs, Nehra's experience has worked wonders in the inital overs, and Pandya is a valuable all-rounder to the side. Ashwin and Jadeja, when they get going, they can destroy the opposition, and get the big wickets at the crucial times. We also have effective part-timers in the form of Yuvraj and Raina. So this line-up gives Dhoni a lot of flexibility and options during the course of an innings, which has worked wonders for us so far this year!

The batting strength

This is kind of a no-brainer, as most people associated the Indian side, as a side with currently some of the most talented batsmen in the world.This is a really good mix of experience and youth, which is also an interesting change for this new Indian side. Dhawan and Sharma have been the reliable opening duo, and they both can fire when needed, particularly Rohit Sharma who has been in good form off late. Kohli has been in the form of his life, and will surely carry this form with him into the tournament. Raina has not been consistent, but he is one of India's most valuable T20 players. Yuvraj Singh is an interesting element of the side: although initially criticized for some of his oddly slow knocks, when this man is in form, he can be a destructive element - and it does look like he found his groove back in the recent matches. Pandya is also a fresh and interesting part of this new line-up; he plays very fearlessly, and can be the firepower we need at the end of an innings. Dhoni is the ideal person to have at the end of an innings, especially going by the end of the recent matches (including that Asia Cup final!) - Pandya and him are great players to have at the rear end of a match. Jadeja and Ashwin can also contribute, if required, which means we could even say our line-up goes all the way to the No. 9 batsman. This depth in the batting line-up has really been a key element in our recent victories.

The reliable fielding

Nothing much to add here, since this is an area the Indian team management has been focusing on since quite some time, and we have indeed been one of the best fielding sides in the world. We just need this to sustain this kind of energy and aggression in the field during the T20 World cup. Also, I can't do without mentioning Dhoni's speed behind the stumps - he has the quickest pair of hands for a wicket-keeper and this will really be a big plus, seeing how this has had an impact on previous matches.

The captaincy and the current form of the side

Coming from a successful Asia Cup campaign, which came right after whitewashing Australia, India has been in great form, and EVEN when there are the occasional hiccups during matches, it gives the opportunity for someone to save the innings and win the game for us. This sort of situation has occurred at some times in the last few games, and this just goes to show we are a very "complete" team currently. Furthermore, on the whole, we have witnessed amazing captaincy skills by Dhoni, and it has been some tough aggressive leadership from him in the T20 format.

The opposition in the T20 World Cup, and predictions

Within Group 2, India will be playing Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Group A winner Bangladesh. They are all very challenging opponents, but India could come out on top of each duel. India vs Australia will be a cracker of a match, and it turns out to be India's last group stage match.

Then, going forward to the semi-final, if India eventually tops Group 2, we will be playing the team placed 2nd in Group 1, which would be either Sri Lanka or England in my opinion (the team placed 1st being South Africa, in my view).

Ideally, an India vs South Africa final would be the real cherry on the cake! That is what I predict for now.

Final thoughts

All in all, this will make for a very entertaining season of cricket for the Indian fans, especially going by the recent form of the Men In Blue. And I'm calling it: India will perform really well in this World Cup, and we might even lift the trophy this time. This is definitely a side that can lift the cup, and we just need to carry this good form into the big tournament. Make us proud, Men In Blue! All the best, Dhoni and co.!

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