Form at the Twenty20 World Cup has been something of an anomaly for India since it won the inaugural title in 2007.
India stages cricket’s biggest and most lucrative franchise T20 competition, which regularly features the biggest stars of the international game as well the homegrown stars such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
The national team boasts some of the finest batters and bowlers in both spin and pace departments, and allrounders who can make a difference.
Yet India hasn’t won the T20 world title since the very first in South Africa, and has only reached the final once in the six subsequent editions.
Even last year, as host, India didn’t make it out of the group stage in a surprising run that included losses to arch rival Pakistan and eventual finalist New Zealand.
For context, though, rules in place for the COVID-19 pandemic meant India was host in name and funding only, with all games played in the United Arab Emirates or Oman.
So Rohit’s so-called Men in Blue are desperate to turn things around in Australia.
After unofficial warmups against against Australia on Monday and New Zealand on Wednesday in Brisbane, India’s campaign will start with a blockbuster against Pakistan on Oct. 23 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is sold out. It will then play Bangladesh and South Africa, as well as two qualifiers from the first round.
India has been acclimatizing in Western Australia, where it had a win and a loss in practice games against a West Australian XI.
Following last year’s T20 World Cup embarrassment in the UAE, India made some changes to the composition of the team and coaching staff.
Rohit Sharma now leads the team following Virat Kohli’s decision in 2021 to step down as captain. Rahul Dravid has replaced Ravi Shastri as head coach.
Under new captain and coach, India has played 35 T20s at home and away, with 26 wins and eight losses. It holds the record for maximum wins in a calendar year, taking this form into the World Cup.
India missed the final of the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates but rallied for 2-1 T20 series wins at home against Australia and South Africa before the top squad headed Down Under for the global tournament.
“We can get caught up with what happens during T20 games in India. The boundaries are shorter there. In Australia, the boundaries are far bigger and give the bowlers a bit of license to work with,” veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin said during the training camp in Perth.
Suryakumar Yadav has been one of the T20 stars for India in recent months. He has scored 864 runs in 26 matches at strike-rate of 180 and is currently ranked No. 2 in the ICC’s Men’s T20 batting charts.
He has risen to be the fulcrum of India’s lineup, and its hopes for a second T20 title will rely on Yadav staying in form.
India’s batting depth is strong, with Rohit, Kohli and Lokesh Rahul making a formidable top-order, backed up by Yadav at No. 4. Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik are assigned finishers.
Rishabh Pant is both a back-up opener and wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad. Despite mercurial performances on Australian soil in the past, Pant is not expected to feature regularly in India’s first-choice XI.
In a major blow to its title aspirations, India will be missing leading fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja because of long-term injuries, and Deepak Chahar was ruled out with a back injury earlier this week.
Bowling remains a concern for India in the absence of Jadeja and Bumrah, who is a brilliant T20 bowler and excels particularly in the late overs.
In his absence, young pacers Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh have struggled to come to terms with the high-pressure job. Even the experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar struggled during the recent Asia Cup and against Australia at home.
Axar Patel has come in as left-arm spinner in place of Jadeja, who also will be sorely missed in the field.
On Friday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said Mohammed Shami would replace Bumrah as the 15th player in the squad. Shami had already landed in Australia and will join the Indian team in Brisbane for two warmup matches against Australia and New Zealand next week.
Shami has experience of playing in Australia and was India’s second highest wicket-taker during the ODI World Cup in 2019. The right-arm fast bowler was due to play in the home T20 series against Australia and South Africa last month but pulled out after he tested positive for COVID-19.
He hasn’t played a T20 international in almost a year since claiming six wickets in five games during the last T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Rohit Sharma (captain), Lokesh Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Deepak Hooda, Mohammed Shami.
Indian schedule at the T20 World Cup
India vs Pakistan: October 23, Sunday at 1:30 PM IST
India vs A2 : October 27, Thursday at 12:30 PM IST
India vs South Africa: October 30, Sunday at 4:30 PM IST
India vs Bangladesh: November 2, Wednesday at 1:30 PM IST
India vs B1: November 6, Sunday at 1:30 PM IST