Under usual circumstances, in an assessment of a team’s chances at a tournament, you would want to make a cogent case for the team and how it could have a shot at winning the title. But India’s case for the World T20 2016 is so strong that it would actually require shrewd analysis to demonstrate why anyone other than India should have their names etched on the trophy.
India has been on a majestic run in T20 internationals, almost 1/4th (10 of 41) of their T20I wins have come in the last two months alone, and they have been in varied conditions. From the batting decks Down Under where they swept Australia to home conditions where Sri Lanka were beaten to Bangladesh where M S Dhoni led the team to a flawless Asia Cup win, the Indian team has hit the right high notes at the right time better than a trained soprano ever could. In even a four-year-old’s form book, that makes the hosts overwhelming favourites for the tournament. There are three main ingredients that make India hard to beat – the team seems to have found the right combination, the familiarity with the conditions and recent experience playing the combination together.
T20Is are like international football, in that most of the players play plenty of matches in the format for their club/franchise teams but the national team players do not get to play much together. At international tournaments, then, they seem to struggle to gel and with unforgiving formats where a single slip up can be costly, the teams that are slow to synergize pay the price. This is where India’s well timed preparation may come in handy with the team having played 11 T20Is in 2016 already as compared to just 4 in the whole of 2015. Incidentally, Josh Hazlewood made a similar point at a press conference after the Australian team arrived in India saying “I think we definitely could play T20 a little bit more leading into big tournaments like this.”
India are drawn with Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and the qualifier among Bangladesh or Oman making it probably the tougher group of the two. India’s recent successes against Pakistan and Australia will definitely be a boost for them but it is the opening game against New Zealand, a team against which India have not had much T20I success, which will be the sternest test.
India have a set of in-form batsmen with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in sizzling touch and Suresh Raina buoyed by his recent contributions in Australia and the Asia Cup as well as the comfort of batting in home conditions. Yuvraj Singh and M S Dhoni have shown enough glimpses of their prime selves to warrant genuine hope and Ravindra Jadeja lends depth and not just numbers to the batting order. The trump card, though, could turn out to be the bowling. With a rapidly maturing Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah at his disposal, Dhoni would not have to always look at Ravichandran Ashwin for the breakthroughs, something that let India down in the 2014 final where they struggled to defend a modest total against Sri Lanka.
The Indian unit looks well oiled and sharp; now for the business of taking their mind off all the off field hullabaloo and get down to business.