In less than a year, cricket teams from across the globe will land in Australia to play the World Cup T20.
Despite the many successful T20 leagues like the IPL, BBL and the CPL, the T20 World Cup has retained its relevance as the pinnacle of the sport in its shortest format.
The tournament has been the most open with five different teams having won the title in the past six editions. Only the West Indies have won it twice.
Australia, who have won five of the 12 ODI World Cups, are yet to win the tournament. This closeness of competition has ensured that the World T20 retains its suspense and interest among audiences.
For Indian fans, the team’s record in this tournament has been one of disappointment since that glorious win in South Africa in 2007. Since 2007, India have hosted the most successful league in T20, the Indian Premier League. However, India is yet to win the T20 World Cup since its inception.
India had their best chance to win in the 2014 World T20, only to be thwarted by a rare failure from Yuvraj Singh in a big game and the determination of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to be part of a World Cup-winning team.
So the Indian cricket public is keenly looking at the current crop to end this 12-year title drought. Will the team fulfill this expectation? What is the line-up of players most likely to participate in this event?
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Captain Virat Kohli started his international career in the IPL era. You would expect a team led by him to be deeply influenced by T20 cricket and be masters of it.
However, Kohli has gone on to build India’s finest ever Test team and has slipped a bit in creating a similarly dominant limited-overs international team.
Kohli’s failure to build a solid middle-order batting line-up since Yuvraj and MS Dhoni lost their touch remains a sore point. Plus, his panic to change the successful bowling combination after the loss to England in the World Cup group match revealed a certain amount of weakness in the thought process.
Kohli has built his Test success on the foundation of an all-weather, attacking bowling line-up. Kohli has shown the resolve not to shake this foundation, whatever be the result of a match or a Test series. Kohli seemed to believe in the same mantra for limited-overs internationals as well until the rampaging English batsmen tore his bowling line-up apart at Edgbaston.
Indian fans hope that Kohli would return to his basic thought process and build his limited-overs team on the back of a wicket-taking bowling line-up. T20 is a batting-dominated format, often played on batsman-friendly surfaces. On batting-friendly surfaces, it is all the more important to have highly skilled bowlers to take wickets and win matches.
The fact that a batsman gets only one chance to fail remains the same whether it is a Test match innings or a T20. It will pay off for Kohli to play four wicket-taking bowlers plus a wicket-taking all-rounder in every T20 game.
India’s long tail was criticised for its lack of scoring capability during the World Cup in 2019. However, India did not lose to NZ in the semi-finals because of a long tail. India lost because of the poor top and middle-order batting. The onus has to be placed on the batsmen to come good rather than weakening the bowling line-up to cover for a failure.
If Kohli can back five pure batsmen in the Tests and expect them to deliver in bowling-friendly Test pitches, the same logic applies in T20 on more batting-friendly surfaces, too.
Indian fans hope that Virat plays Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Deepak Chahar, Yuzi Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, and Hardik Pandya as the first-choice bowling line-up in the World T20. All those bowlers can take wickets and will remain a threat in all conditions. The bigger grounds in Australia will help the bowlers’ cause as well.
The two all-rounders in Jadeja and Pandya will provide enough lower-order depth to the batting. However, their primary job would be to look for wickets.
The selectors can pick four pure batsmen from the list of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and Mayank Agarwal.
The last name is a surprise as Mayank is not in the T20 mix yet. But considering his rollicking success at the top of the Test team, it is only a question of time before the think tank play him in the T20s.
My first-choice line-up is Rohit, Mayank, Virat, Rahul, Shreyas, Dhoni/Samson/Pant, Hardik/Jadeja, Chahal, Chahar, Bumrah, and Shami.
If Hardik is in good batting form, I would play him in place of Shreyas or Rahul and have six bowling options to play around with.
Indian cricket is in the midst of a bumper bowling harvest and they’ll win matches off the back of this crop.