ICC World Twenty20: Why India are odds-on favorite to win second title
Never before has the Indian team been dubbed overwhelming favorite to win a major ICC event like it is this year.
Even during the 2011 World Cup and the 2014 World T20, there was no unanimity in cricketing circles in propping MS Dhoni’s side as the team to beat.
This time around however, there appears to be a sense of inevitability to India capturing its second WT20 title. Their dominance in the recent Asia Cup seems to have further reinforced this belief held by many.
Michael Vaughan predicts the eventual winners will be the team that beats India, while Virender Sehwag has no doubts whatsoever about the home side’s winning chances.
Viru’s first captain, Sourav Ganguly, too echoed similar sentiments but inserted a caveat, which is rather very interesting.
Dada feels that the team is bound to drop a match at the tournament especially after winning 10 out of their last 11 T20Is.
If one goes by Ganguly’s views, that game could well be the semi-final or final. However, recent performances do inspire confidence that this time, Men in Blue can continue their invincible run through the WT20.
In differing with one of India’s greatest leaders, here is why Dhoni and co is unlikely to lose that crucial knockout match.
Virat Kohli’s artistry
The vice-captain’s metamorphosis from a great batsman to an absolute artist in the T20 format gives India’s batting line-up a distinct advantage.
The right-hander first showed a glimpse of his new avatar in the last edition of the tournament, playing a flawless knock against South Africa in the semi-finals.
But his innings in Australia earlier this year and the Asia Cup confirmed the fact that Virat is the best T20 batsmen in the game at the moment, even ahead of AB de Villiers.
At the moment Kohli is a batting phenomenon, well ahead of his peers in all conditions.
While there are no real favorites in T20 cricket, playing at home does tilt the balance in India’s favor.
As Dhoni pointed out after the series win over Sri Lanka, experience of playing in the Indian Premier League since 2008 and the nature of surfaces on offer at the tournament will hold his side in good stead come at the event.
Moreover, cricket powerhouses like Australia and South Africa have struggled in the sub-continent, which further withers down the challenge to the Men in Blue.
Ravichandran Ashwin with the ball is in the same league as Kohli with the bat. The off-spinner’s record in Asia is far superior to that of his predecessors. At the moment, Ashwin is in the best phase of his bowling career.
As Saqlain Mushtaq recently said, he is ahead of his peers in terms of skill. Ashwin's support cast – Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina – too has a proven track record of building pressure on batsmen by stifling strike rotation.
With no Yasir Shah in the Pakistan camp and other teams lacking a spinner of genuine world-class repute, the Indian side is miles ahead of competition in this department.
Veterans’ last hurrah
In all likelihood, this tournament could be the last major assignment for Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and even Dhoni in India colors.
Hence, they personally, and the team as a unit will have added motivation to do well at the second most important limited-overs event in world cricket.
Though the trio is among the most decorated cricketers in India's history, hanging your boots on a high is something every athlete dreams of.
A similar sight was witnessed in the last edition of the tournament in Sri Lanka when the legendary duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were given the perfect send-offs from T20Is with a resounding win against a strong Indian team.
A stark contrast in the team's fortunes was witnessed in Australia when fresh blood was infused after a severe beating in the ODI series. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya’s have certainly added value to India’s T20I side.
The Gujarat pacer’s ability to nail yorkers has come as a cure to India’s death bowling woes. His fellow Mumbai Indians’ teammate too has come to the party of late, walking the talk with regards to his all-round pedigree.
The duo is a vital asset, lending depth and balance to the team. Bumrah and Pandya are cricketers the Indian side has long missed. Their presence has not just elevated team performance but also Dhoni’s captaincy.