Even while appreciating Rohit’s phenomenal talent, few knew that a team with an average age of around 26 would conquer the world in a format that was very reluctantly accepted by its own board.
Fifteen years later, another Indian team hits the Australian shores to win back the trophy that once completely changed the demographics of Indian cricket.
It was a team led by a new captain and nobody knew what to expect from them, but as the 35-year-old Rohit prepares to enter the MCG, his team with an average of 30 and a half must believe in the old saying: Winning is not everything, but the only thing.
Touchdown Brisbane 📍#TeamIndia https://t.co/HHof4Le3mP
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1665823652000
So how does this group of 15 shape up? Here’s a look at the ‘Men in Blue’.
Rohit Sharma (Captain): He has the God’s elusive gift — sinewy wrists that help him play the flick and pull with equal finesse and panache. Rohit has been a fantastic IPL captain with five titles and a more than decent leader in most of the bilateral series the national team has played under him.
All Captains. One frame. One goal @T20WorldCup https://t.co/a9Rdj1YhF1
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1665806330000
The national captaincy came to him when he pushed 35 and he may only have two ICC tournaments (this and the 23 ODIs) as a leader to leave a lasting legacy. He has changed his batting style from the previous World Cup and is taking the lead in power play overs. But marshalling the limited fast bowling resources will test his leadership in adverse conditions.
KL Rahul (Vice-Captain): One of the most stylish players in modern times, but perhaps the weakest link in India’s top order. A favorite of head coach Rahul Dravid, Rahul has often struggled with his strike rate.
He does have all the hits in the book and is a prolific scorer in the IPL, but if one looks at his record across formats, Rahul has not really stood up during the crucial matches where the team’s fate is at stake. was not He has struggled against fast incoming deliveries, and how he fares against Pakistan opener Shaheen Shah Afridi will set the tone for the tournament.
Virat Kohli: He was, is and until he plays, he will remain the biggest threat to any opposition. The best part about Kohli is his return to form within time. The glimpse of ‘Vintage Virat’ during the Asia Cup is a warning to the opposition. However, with Kohli, one has to give him that cushion of 8-10 balls before he starts dominating the bowlers. For that, a good showdown will be a must start.
Suryakumar Yadav: To call a strike rate of 176 plus, with nine fifties and a hundred in 34 matches, astounding would be an understatement. These are simply striking numbers. His century in Nottingham against England, or his recent matches against Australia and South Africa, give hope. No one plays the ramp against rising deliveries better than Surya or the whip ‘pick up pull’ behind square to the deliveries on rib cage. In the back-10, the Mumbai star is India’s X-factor. The Indian fans will not mind doing the ‘Surya Namaskar’ if everything comes off perfectly.
Hardik Pandya: Perhaps the most important link in the team with his versatile abilities. Everyone is aware of the destruction that the batsman Hardik can cause, but it is Hardik, the bowler, who will have to up the ante. With his ability to hit the hard lengths consistently and a very deceptive short ball in his armoury, the flamboyant Baroda man could be the surprise bowling weapon on the big Australian pitch. In batting, he would be a better finisher than Dinesh Karthik any day, with his ability to hit sixes at will.
Rishabh Pant: A strikeout rate of 127 over 62 games doesn’t quite do justice to this one-time talent. Pant has yet to untangle himself in the T20s, where he seems confused between attack and anchor. He played his natural game whenever he opened the innings with Rohit. But it doesn’t look like Dravid will be too keen to replace Rahul at the top as the Karnataka man cannot be placed in the middle order in the shorter format.
In terms of talent and ability, he is way ahead of Karthik, but if he doesn’t open, the Tamil Nadu man looks a better bet on current form. But on a big day, Pant can outdo them all.
Dinesh Karthik: One of those eternal comeback men of Indian cricket. Apart from Rohit, Karthik is the only active playing member of the 2007 World T20 winning team. He has a very specific role for him — to play 10-15 balls to the back and create the maximum impact. It is a high risk high reward approach and there will be days when it will not come off. An innovative shot will look like a ‘hara-kiri’. But the team trusts Karthik. He’s never been great at big events, but a course correction could be around the corner. He is expected to start ahead of Pant in the playing eleven if Rahul opens the innings.
Ravichandran Ashwin: In this Indian team, if anyone has always been a bold innovator, it is Ravichandran Ashwin. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but the ‘Cricket Scientist’, as his fans call him, has never been shy about trying something new. With Pakistan and South Africa having several left-handers in the setup, Ashwin will remain in the mix as an off-spinner, but he certainly won’t be a first-choice slow bowler.
Axar Patel: In recent years, purely as a T20 left-arm spinner, Axar Patel has shown better control than Ravindra Jadeja, the man he replaced in the set-up. However, as a package, he is no match for Jadeja, who is a very superior batsman, and perhaps the world’s No. 1 fielder in all positions – infield and outfield.
Still, with an economy rate of less than 7.5 and handy batting skills, Axar will be preferred over certain opponents. Coach Dravid is big on ‘matches’ (one-on-one duels) and the Gujarat man might not be preferred over teams with more left-handers.
Yuzvendra Chahal: His biggest problem in the last one year has been the lack of consistency. He is from the T20 World Cup team for the last edition due to a slump in form. He has blown hot and cold since his return. In fact, against Pakistan in the Asia Cup Super 4s, Ravi Bishnoi looked much more in control with his googlies. Ideally, he should still be the first choice spinners as wrist spinners usually do well Down Under.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: There is no denying that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is past his prime. While he is still a force to reckon with in the power play, Deepak Chahar, with the same skillset, has looked much stronger of late.
The bigger problem is his failure at the back during the Asia Cup where he consistently bowled length balls in the 19th over. His pace has also dipped a bit and his form is a cause for concern going into the tournament.
Mohammed Shami: He has not played a single T20I since the last World Cup in the UAE. It is believed that he was told by the team management that he would only play Tests and 50 over cricket due to a near 10 economy rate in T20Is. But Jasprit Bumrah’s injury changed all that. Also his performance for Gujarat Titans in the IPL, where he was superb in power play, gives the team hope. But the lack of playing time after COVID-19 could be a big problem.
Arshdeep Singh: One for the future and a bowler with a big heart. But he needs a lot of experience, and certainly, T20 World Cup is not a place for that. With the tournament starting in the latter part of the Australian winter, if the Punjab man can swing it up front, as he did in Trivandrum during the South African T20Is, he would be a handful. At the death, he would need backup from his seniors, which he did not get in the Asia Cup. His area of concern is fielding as he is a bit sloppy on that front.
Harshal Patel: A bowler with a lot of skills but will always need some assistance from the tracks to make good use of his variations of slower deliveries. He came back from a rib cage injury, and has been off the boil ever since. On the hard and true Australian tracks it will be difficult to predict how effective his slower tracks will be. Perhaps like Mohit Sharma of 2015, Rohit can prompt Harshal to use the slower stuff.
Deepak Hooda: Talking about power, Deepak Hooda might face competition from only Pant in this setup. In the limited chances he has, he has shown a big heart and good temperament. But Hooda is also not a finisher but more of a top-order batsman who can explode after being drafted.
He bowls wicket-to-wicket and his breakaways don’t spin much. Definitely not a first XI starter and will only be called upon if a player is injured.