World T20 March 20, 2014

Lack of T20I exposure poses questions for India



India left for last year's Champions Trophy in similarly dispiriting circumstances. MS Dhoni had refused to answer questions about the alleged corruption in the IPL. This time, he wouldn't speak about Duncan Fletcher, the coach whom the BCCI had invited for a meeting just before the team left for Bangladesh. The overseas defeats are stacking up, like they had last year. Somehow, against all odds and suggestions of form, India managed to win that Champions Trophy. The only matter of relief for them this time will be that form and odds play even less a role in Twenty20 than they do in ODIs.

The tournament format itself is tough, though. Only two go ahead from a group of five with only one of the five minnows. In fact, India's group could draw Bangladesh, and they are capable of beating big teams in home conditions. India are also in the tougher group, with two pre-tournament favourites, West Indies and Australia, and the ever-dangerous Pakistan. What should make it more difficult is that India have played only five T20Is since the last World T20. Four of them featured one set of openers, the fifth a completely new set. And the fifth and the last came in October 2013, so India don't have much to go by in terms of form and feel when they choose their starting XI and batting order.

Do Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma continue to open, like they did in India's last T20 international, despite the failure in the first warm-up match? Is there a place for Ajinkya Rahane, who opened in the four matches before that? India don't have any form guide to go by when they make these decisions. Lest we forget, we said the same things before the 2007 tournament, and if Twenty20 has taught us one lesson, it is to never write a team off.

Key players

Playing for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, the Ravis, Ashwin and Jadeja, control the middle of the innings superbly, and aren't shy of bowling a high-pressure over in the end either. If anything, the wickets in Bangladesh will be even slower. To add to that, Dhoni is a good captain of spin. He will have to make the most of those eight overs to assume some control. Given the general profligacy of their other bowlers, India will have to spin it to win it. The only debilitating factor here is that India are the main draw for television, which demands they play every match in the evening, and ask their spinners to fight the dew.

Surprise package

India's bowling other than Ashwin and Jadeja. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami will likely be the first two choices, but it is Mohit Sharma and Amit Mishra who will need to surprise or Stuart Binny to multi-task or Varun Aaron to blast through with his pace. It is possible that the pitches might allow the playing of all three spinners, but even if they don't, at least one of the quicks will have to play a big role.


Denial. Hopefully India are not singing to themselves the tune they have been playing in their press conferences - 'The IPL is high quality cricket so we don't need international experience. We lost only one match in the last World T20 so we are an excellent team. It was only rain during the match we lost that made the ball wet and pushed our net run rate too far down.'

The facts are: even despite dubious claims of high quality in the IPL, you need to play as a team to sort out your combinations, to know which bowler is in form to bowl the pressure overs, to know if Rohit should indeed open the innings, to judge if Dhoni should bat higher in the order and give himself the time to score his first international T20 fifty.

And saying India lost just one match in the last World T20 flatters them. When they knew they had to beat South Africa by at least 31 runs for that win to mean something, India used their best bowler, Ashwin, only from the 10th over, until which time India had set up a close contest for the match itself but had lost sight of their main target. It did rain during India's only "defeat", but India knew it was going to rain yet they picked three spinners and decided to bat first.

World T20 history

After stunning everyone by winning the inaugural World T20 in 2007, India have fizzled out as a T20 team. In the three World T20s since the first, they have won just two matches after easy an passage into the second rounds. This time there is no easy passage with the first round set for all the action before the semi-finals.

Recent form

India have won three and lost two of their matches since the last World T20. Yuvraj Singh is their form batsman, the only Indian to have scored an international fifty in T20s since the last World T20. He also leads the wickets chart with seven.

Dhoni didn't bat in India's first warm-up game because of a hand niggle. However, he did keep wicket so it doesn't sound like a serious injury.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on March 22, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    This shows how talented dhawan is! he sweeped 3 boundaries off Ajmal. He will do well against the likes of santokie narine badree rampaul sammy bravo etc.

  • Ramanathan on March 21, 2014, 12:25 GMT

    Either drop Rohit and bring Rahane in to open or if Dhoni insists on keeping Rohit Sharma in the playing 11, keep him in the middle order and you can ask Ashwin to open.

    Ashwin cannot do any worse than Rohit as an opener. Even in ODIs and Test Cricket, Ashwin has a better strike rate and has decent technique for an opener having donned the role in first class matches.

    this is the googly Dhoni should bowl if he is adamant on retaining Rohit Sharma.

    My playing eleven would be :

    Ashwin, Dhawan, Kohli, Yuvraj, Rohit/Rahane, Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja, Binny, Mohd. Shami, Varun Aaron

    How many of you will agree with this batting line-up? Typically, a left hand batsman is sandwiched between 2 right handers - it is the same the other way as well. It may sound different opening with Ashwin - but you never know.

  • deepanshu on March 21, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    since my childhood i am pasionating about cricket.i am very luck i saw sachin ,wasim,shoiab ,rahul,kumble,afridi,dhoni,virat,misbah,on field.all players gave us ASTONING moment of cricket.and life,,,Miadad's Six,Prasad's wicket,Sachin's google;India's wt20 trimuph'afridi's knock Sachin shoib moment,,,i want this love and knock jhok in indian pakistani people as well

  • chandra on March 21, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    Rahane,Dawan,Kohli,Raina,Rohit,Yuvi,Dhoni,Jadeja,Ashwin,Shami,Bhuvi would be my winning team for today's game.

  • Saud on March 21, 2014, 6:26 GMT

    India is pretty thin when it comes to death bowling but have an outstanding all rounder in Jadeja (bat, bowl, field). Their morale will be a bit down after Afridi's heroics in the Asia cup. Afridi factor should be best utilized by Pakistan by sending him to bat in the 12-13th over (should a wicket fall during that phase of the innings).

  • vishwas on March 21, 2014, 5:37 GMT

    guys ignore this " Albert campbell " guy or whoever he is.... he is just another jealousy creature from our one of 3 neighbours imposting himself as someone from overseas.... he has been like this since ages... and many are there like him... you can see some more of these type in IND-lanka matches... just enjoy his humour.... :P

  • Siddharth on March 21, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    Cricket is no NBA, franchise cricket pays you well but the spirit to compete is at its best while playing for National Team and this is a World Cup.

    Good to see Raina back, he is very competitive when playing down the order and more so in these conditions.

    Rohit for all his talent has been given enough opportunities at various batting positions and I have not seen any other Indian Opener given so much levy to consume so many balls to settle in limited overs format.

    Yuvraj was good but now whenever he scores, one can see how edgy and uneasy he looks in the middle.

    Kohli and Dhoni are among the best in the limited overs format and will continue to be a threat. Dhawan is unpredictable and so is Jadeja. In a format like T-20 any one player can take away the match but only a consistent batting line up will take away the Cup.

  • Bogala on March 21, 2014, 3:56 GMT

    India is far too strong for any other teams in world right now. It is good India time and time lose in some series, or else rest of the world will get tired of getting thrashed each time. But recent series India took it lightly and relax and rest key players for more important future series. There is no challenge for Team India in this T20 Wc. Tournament is good for IPL teams to test each players current form and fine tune their squads for April.

  • Anand on March 21, 2014, 0:06 GMT

    Dhoni and Fletcher will be sacked after the Indian election..finally Indian fan will have a say in electing Bcci members!

  • Rohan on March 20, 2014, 22:09 GMT

    Its team of 11 players selected from each country. and India has a population well about all other countries put to gether and still cant select a team to beat small countries like NEW ZEALAND.. so Indian fans watch the cricket with out bid talks.