Rating Team India: Strengths and weaknesses of the Men in Blue

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS)
Australia was originally scheduled to host the ICC Mens T20 World Cup in 2020, before it was postponed due to Covid-19 and re-scheduled for October 16-November 13 this year.
The showpiece event will feature 16 teams playing 45 matches with the final to be played on November 13 at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Matches will be played in Adelaide (Adelaide Oval), Brisbane (The Gabba), Geelong (Kardinia Park Stadium), Hobart (Bellerive Oval), Melbourne (MCG), Perth (Perth Stadium) and Sydney (SCG).
It’s the first time Australia will host the Men’s T20 World Cup after a record-breaking Women’s T20 World Cup, which was held in February-March 2020.
India are all set to enter the competition with an eye to replicate what M.S. Dhoni & Co. did in 2007 – winning the inaugural World T20 trophy. Since the time India defeated Pakistan in a thrilling final at Johannesburg in 2007, they haven’t laid their hands on the silverware.
IANS takes a glance at the players in the Indian squad who are on the quest to win the T20 World Cup in Australia after failing to reach the knockouts in the last edition of the tournament in the UAE.

Rohit Sharma (Captain)

Since the time he took over as India’s captain after the Super 12 exit in the T20 World Cup last year, Rohit has led the side’s winning run in bilateral T20Is, barring the inability to reach Asia Cup final earlier this year. Under him, India have embraced a new, aggressive attacking approach with the bat irrespective of wickets lost, apart from tonnes of experiments and giving much-needed role clarity to the players.
With the bat, Rohit has upped his strike-rate and given India the starts they needed apart from getting some sparking fifties.

K.L. Rahul (Vice Captain)

There were doubts over Rahul’s form when he looked scratchy in Asia Cup 2022. But since getting that 62 against Afghanistan in the last Super Four match, Rahul got his groove back, as seen from the three fifties he got in five matches against Australia and South Africa at home.
With him making a patient 74 in the second practice match against Western Australia XI, Rahul has given a reminder that he will be a key cog in the wheel for India.

Virat Kohli

All eyes were on how Kohli would fare when he returned to competitive action at the Asia Cup. After a scratchy start, Kohli brought out his vintage self and took it a notch higher when he hit an unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan to smash his long-awaited 71st century for India across all formats.
It was also his first T20I century and helped him shed his extended lean patch with the bat. With decent showings in the bilateral matches against Australia and South Africa, India will be hoping that Kohli plays a big role in their quest of winning the Cup.

Suryakumar Yadav

Currently rated by many experts as one of the best T20 batters in the world, Suryakumar has turned out to be the x-factor for India with the bat. The year 2022 has seen the right-hander in the form of his life, becoming the leading run-scorer in T20Is this year through breath-taking and audacious stroke play.
His ability to have two different shots for one ball and making use of the crease well to unfurl jaw-dropping shots against fast bowlers and spinners will keep India in good stead during the tournament.

Deepak Hooda

This year has seen the rise of Hooda being a firm presence in India’s plans for white-ball cricket. In February, he made his ODI debut as a middle-order batter and in March, he played his first T20I against Sri Lanka.
Later, Hooda had a brilliant IPL 2022, making 451 runs at a strike rate of 136.66, largely while batting at number three for Lucknow Super Giants, finishing in the top ten run-scorers’ list.
In June, he scored his first T20I century batting at No. 3 against Ireland. Against the West Indies, Hooda illustrated his tight, stump-to-stump line off-spin bowling, which came in handy during the ODI and T20I series. Though he was played out of his place in the Asia Cup, Hooda can be the ideal utility back-up player in the top-order for India.

Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper)

Though head coach Rahul Dravid had insisted that Pant is part of India’s T20I scheme of things, it seems that for now, he will be made to warm the bench. Though he’s a left-hander who can bat anywhere from top to middle order, Pant’s returns in T20Is have been strictly lean.
Moreover, in the practice matches against Western Australia XI, Pant opened the batting twice but struggled to find his rhythm as well as timing and fell cheaply. Though one may cite him as the X-factor in T20Is, Pant will have to be at his best if he makes it to the playing eleven.

Dinesh Karthik (Wicket-keeper)

Ever since his comeback to the T20I side in June against South Africa after a good show for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the IPL, Karthik has been bringing out the required finishing acts in the last five overs, making him a utility player in a super-specialist role.
A 27-ball 55 on a tough pitch at Rajkot and an unbeaten 19-ball 41 on a tricky track against the West Indies in Trinidad were some examples of Karthik’s finishing role benefiting India in recent times, though he did hit 46 off 21 balls on being promoted in the batting order against South Africa in Indore.

Hardik Pandya

Since his return to the T20I side in June, Pandya has been a pivotal figure in India’s recent success. With the bat, he has been a dependable figure, but it is his success with the ball which has contributed to his all-round show. Match-winning performances against England and Pakistan have demonstrated his importance in the side, which will come handy in Australia.

Ravichandran Ashwin

The ace off-spinner has been one of India’s most effective bowlers in T20I cricket since his surprise recall for the T20 World Cup in 2021. He uses his carrom ball and arm ball to good effect and is a master of taking out left-handed batters as well as being economical against right-handed batsmen. Also, as seen from his time with Rajasthan Royals during IPL 2022, he has been upping his batting skills, which could give India useful runs in the tournament.

Yuzvendra Chahal

Considered to be India’s lead spinner in the shortest format of the game, Chahal picked only two wickets in the recent series against Australia. With left-arm spinner Axar Patel emerging as a trump card with the ball due to his tight bowling, Chahal didn’t play in the series against South Africa. But with Australian conditions known to favour wrist-spinners, one can expect Chahal to be back in form ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Axar Patel

Since the time senior all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was ruled out of the T20 World Cup due to knee injury and subsequent surgery, Patel has brilliantly filled in the void. At an economy rate of 6.3 in the series against Australia, Axar finished with eight wickets to be named Player of the Series in India’s 2-1 triumph over the Aussies.

He continued his good form by giving away just 16 runs in four overs in the first T20I against South Africa in Thiruvananthapuram, underlining his significant credentials as a key asset for India in the shortest format of the game.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

The right-arm seamer will now play the role of fast bowling spearhead in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah in the T20 World Cup. Though he has been India’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is this year, his form in the death overs has been a matter of concern.
Bhuvneshwar has conceded 16, 14 and 19 runs in the 19th overs against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, with his economy rate in the penultimate over going above 12. With the opening match against Pakistan just a week away, India would want for Bhuvneshwar to get his groove back in time for the tournament.

Harshal Patel

A constant presence in India’s T20I side in the last 11 months due to his control over slower deliveries and delivering the goods in the death overs, Harshal had to miss the T20Is against the West Indies and the Asia Cup due to a rib injury.
After making a comeback against Australia, he was off his usual controlling self in the death overs. One would expect that he gets back to his usual self in time for the World Cup.

Arshdeep Singh

A left-arm seamer who can swing the ball both ways and can excel very well in the death overs, Arshdeep has been one of the finds for the Indian team in T20Is this year. Batters will have to keep an eye out for his toe-crushing yorkers.

Mohammed Shami

Shami was forced to miss India’s recent T20 series against Australia and South Africa after testing positive for Covid-19. The right-arm pacer hasn’t played international cricket since July and didn’t feature in T20Is since last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.
Shami possesses extra pace and has the ability to hit the deck hard, something which is a requirement in Australian conditions. Shami had a great time while being part of Gujarat Titans’ trophy run in IPL 2022, bagging 20 wickets in 16 matches at an economy rate of 8, 11 of which came in the powerplay at an economy rate of 6.62.

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