A lot has changed since India lifted the inaugural T20 World Cup five years ago in South Africa. The former champions are now seventh in the ICC T20 rankings, and are not the favourites in this year's World Cup, to be held in Sri Lanka from September 18 to October 7.
India is in Group A, along with Afghanistan and England. Unlike England, which is coming off a tough series against South Africa, the Men in Blue are under-prepared. The key to success, according to skipper M.S. Dhoni, will be in adapting to the wicket in Colombo, where India will be playing all its matches. The pitch used to be a slow-turner, but has changed. “Now, there is a bit of help for seamers,” said Dhoni.
India relies on its batting. Seven batsmen, two pacers and two spinners is likely to be the norm. “Part-time bowlers will be crucial,” said Dhoni. “They bowl ten-over and eight-over spells in ODIs. We have got plenty of variety in that sense. We have to ensure that they do not go for too many runs.”
Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have their task cut out. Gambhir, who is inching back to form, has his reputation to protect: he is the highest runscorer in T20 internationals. Perhaps, the batsman who can do no wrong right now is Virat Kohli. With his knack of pacing innings, he will be the anchor of the side. The talented Rohit Sharma, too, would be in focus.
For Dhoni, the biggest boon is the return of the Singhs: Yuvraj and Harbhajan. Going by his performance against New Zealand on September 12, Yuvraj will return as a match-winner. Harbhajan, who is back to the national side after a county stint, might team up with R. Ashwin, who has proved that he can be a major threat to batsmen even in T20s.
Irfan Pathan, another comeback man, will most likely be Zaheer Khan's new-ball partner. Pathan may no longer have the pace that everyone wants of him, but he has guile and variations. As an all-rounder, he lends balance to the side.
Yuvraj and Kohli can bowl, so the chances of Dhoni opting for a third seamer are low. W