T20 WC Special

T20 World Cup: Can Men in Blue lift the trophy after 17 years?

Wednesday, 22 May, 2024
The T20 World Cup has been scheduled in the West Indies and the US from June 1-June 29. (Photo courtesy: ICC-Cricket.com)

By Prashanta Tripathy

With the T20 World Cup round the corner, there has been a lot of buzz around, especially after the heart-wrenching defeat of Men in Blue in the final of the World Cup 2023. This time, the Indian cricket fans are hoping for a reversal of fortune. Can Team India repeat the T20 final win in 2007 and end a long dry spell?

First, let us congratulate the selection committee for retaining Rohit Sharma (also known as Hitman) and Hardik Pandya as the captain and the vice-captain. At the moment, Rohit is the best leader in cricket in India. After his exhibition of tremendous leadership qualities in the 50-over WC, he displayed superb skills in the last test series against England, in the absence of some leading players. 

As far as Hardik is concerned, the selectors have rightly ignored and discounted all the controversies surrounding an IPL franchise (IPL 2024). After all, Team India is about a nation and Mumbai Indian (MI) — for which Hardik plays — is just a franchise. A fit Hardik is a potential destroyer of any opposition and his present lackluster performance in the ongoing IPL has no relevance. He is a big match player and T20 WC is a different ball game.

As far as the 15-member Team India is concerned, apart from Rohit and Pandya, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav (also known as Sky), Jasprit Bumrah were natural choices. I wouldn’t comment on the criticism surrounding Virat’s strike rate. He is all class and still remains a big fear for the opposition. Bowlers get nervous to bowl to him.

With five natural choices, let’s now deliberate on the rest of 10, one by one. There was a dilemma between Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal as the other opener. Although Gill has nothing against him, having a left-right combination is, in my opinion, a better option. 

Moreover, Yashasvi’s recent performance against England, in the test series, is a testimony of his ability. He can tear apart the opposition in the power play and reduce the pressure on the Hitman.

We have a problem in the role of wicket-keepers. Apart from KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson, the performance of Dinesh Karthik in the ongoing IPL has surprised many. But, here also, the selectors have been very careful in choosing Pant and Samson. 

Samson, in particular, has compelled the selectors with his consistency and I’m a big fan of him. Between Pant and Rahul, I would have been tempted to pick Rahul for two reasons. One, Pant is coming after a long absence and Rahul is a proven performer. 

Having said that, Pant’s fitness is not an issue as he is keeping wickets in all the matches in the ongoing IPL, and having another left hander down the order will bring balance to the team. 

Now coming to all-rounders, for a very long-time, India is struggling to have a genuine pace bowling all-rounder. Hardik is very expensive and Shivam Dube hasn’t made any impact with the ball. 

Hence, selectors were in a dilemma. Picking Dube instead of Rinku Singh has raised many eyebrows. But here also, the selectors have shown tremendous maturity. 

Hard luck to Rinku. Although he has been a great finisher, Dube has scored over him because he can bowl a couple of overs. It’s another matter whether the team can afford both Hardik and Dube in the playing eleven. Ravindra Jadeja (or Jaddu) is an automatic choice as a spin bowling all-rounder. In addition to him, the selectors have also picked Axar Patel in the all-rounder role. This shows the helplessness of the selectors in finding a genuine fast bowling all-rounder. 

The team has four spinners in Jaddu, Axar and Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav (known as KulCha). I welcome this strategy for many reasons. India will play three matches against Ireland, the US and Pakistan in New York. The Nassau County stadium is a new one and any international match will be played there for the first time. This is a make-shift stadium which was decided as a last-minute choice after the earlier choice of Bronx was cancelled. 

As I have heard, the 22-yard pitch has been airlifted from Australia. I don’t know how the surface beneath the 22-yard will behave during matches. Therefore, it’s better to have an additional spinner. 

Although our matches against Ireland and the US will not pose any serious problems, we will be playing the mother of all matches of the World Cup there. And for India, the match against Pakistan (June 9) is most important. I don’t know how that match will progress on an unpredictable pitch. But for the price of the tickets, I would have loved to watch the match. 

Coming back to four spinners, I would have picked an off spinner, either Ravichandran Ashwin or Washington Sundar in place of Axar. However, selectors want some big hitters in the final overs and therefore Axar has got an edge. But for me, Ashwin is my eternal favorite in all formats. In the past, we have seen ‘KulCha’ magic in many matches and hopefully, they will click this time as well. 

As far as fast bowling is concerned, I believe there is a ‘chink in our armour’. When we have the best fast bowler in the world in our team, we are struggling to find a partner for him. Mohammed Shami’s injury is very unfortunate and may prove catastrophic. Both Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh are vulnerable against quality and innovative batsmen. But selectors had no choice. No other fast or seam bowlers have impressed in the recent past. 

They could have picked rookie Mayank Yadav, but it would have been premature. He will definitely get his chance but he needs time. It’s quite disappointing that we don’t have a strong bench strength in fast bowlers as well as fast bowling all-rounders. We will discuss its reasons sometime later.

Now, about India’s chances in the World Cup. No doubt, we will be the most formidable team and a strong contender. Matches in the West Indies will start at 10 a.m. and there will hardly be any dew or swing. The pitches are expected to be on a slower side. So, expecting 200+ score in every innings would be unrealistic. It’s not the IPL, it's the World Cup. 

In these conditions, Kohli will be a major factor. We shouldn’t expect a strike rate of 200 from him. He can rebuild the innings in case of early loss of wickets and can pace his innings according to the situation.  

We have some world-class spinners and the best fast bowlers in the world. I admit, we still have 8 overs which may be a concern. Therefore, instead of having three left-arm spinners, an off spinner would have been a better option. 

Notwithstanding this, I am confident that our team will do very well. Our battling line is very formidable with Rohit and Jaiswal at the top, followed by Virat, Suryakumar, Pant/Samson and Hardik. Then we have Jaddu. The other four could be ‘KulCha’, Bumrah and Arshdeep/Siraj. In case of need, we may have either Axar or Dube in place of either ‘KulCha,’ and both of them are powerful hitters.

As an eternal optimist, I am looking forward to Rohit lifting the cup in Barbados. That will be a fitting tribute to a great leader. I have been a great admirer of the Hitman. His batting is like a hundred-year-old single malt. Smooth, free flowing and magical. His pull shots are now in the coaching books. His sixes are, in fact, much more than six runs. If anyone can hit a double hundred in T-20, it's Rohit and what is a better occasion to register such a feat than the T20 World Cup? 

I’m sure he will continue from where he left in the last 50-over WC. As far as his leadership skills are concerned, he is one of the best in the history of the game, maybe next only to MS Dhoni. 

Unfortunately, his test career started very late, otherwise he would have become the best captain with maximum test wins.

Let’s wish best of luck to Team India and our captain.



Prashanta Tripathy is the CEO of State Bank of India (SBI), New York


(Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times)

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