Can India win the World T20 in March? India won the inaugural edition in South Africa and came perilously close in the last edition. Before going further with regards to India’s chances, let’s take a moment to look for the common thread between the previous two campaigns. While batsmen walked away with the accolades, it’ll be criminal to ignore what the bowlers brought to the table.
In South Africa, it was India’s pace bowling duo of S Sreesanth and RP Singh, while the spin of Harbhajan Singh also played a crucial role. Then the good showing in Bangladesh was also largely due to the superb performance of spin trio — Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja.
It’s commonly believed that T20 games are won with explosive batting but nothing can be further from the truth. If the pitch is good enough to post in excess of 180, batsmen of both sides are likely to cancel each other out. That’s exactly what happened last year in Dharamsala when India posted 200+ but South Africa chased it down without a fuss.
Now, the difference between winning and losing isn’t the quality of batting but of a bowling spell, which Abbott produced for the visitors. His four economical overs made the difference in the end. That wasn’t an aberration but a norm.
This forces us to look at the Indian bowling attack closely and, unfortunately, that’s where the fault lines lie. Our bowling has been toothless during business ends of a T20 game — the first six overs of power play and the last four. Indian pacers have not only leaked runs but also failed to pick wickets, and hence, results haven’t gone India’s way. Given that India hosts one of the best T20 leagues (IPL), we should have found an answer but that’s not been the case. These ‘tough overs’ in the IPL are bowled by overseas recruits and hence Indian bowlers often slip under the radar. Obviously, that’s not possible in international cricket.
So, how did India make it to the finals last time around? The pitches assisted the Indian spinners. Most games that India played were 140-150 run games and MS Dhoni managed to control the game with spinners. And that’s what India must do during the World T20 to have a chance of victory. If India play on flat pitches, their bowling will be exposed but if the pitches are slow, spinners will dominate. That’s when Ashwin and Co. will come into their own and spin a web around batsmen.
On paper, India boasts of one of the most aggressive T20 batting line-ups. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are as good as gold in this format. Virat Kohli averages in the 40s and Dhoni is one of the best finishers. Add to this, the only man who hit 6 sixes in a T20 match — Yuvraj Singh, and you have match-winners from top to bottom.
Ideally, this batting should not only win matches but also make up for the mediocre bowling. But that’s unlikely to happen till a few things fall in place. India is taking a huge gamble with Shikhar Dhawan for he isn’t the same impact player in the shortest format. You will struggle to recall any T20 game that he won on his own.
Raina is one of the finest T20 batsmen but only if he gets enough overs to make an impact. He has done that for CSK because Dhoni sent him in at number 3 and not later than 4. Can India find a way to give him time? Not to forget that sending him down the order cost India the finals in Bangladesh.
Dhoni is at his best, both as captain and player in T20s. Remaining calm under pressure is an asset and Dhoni has that in abundance. India’s fortunes depend on how he leads and, more importantly bats. His hitting abilities have been on the wane and it’s quite apparent that he needs time to explode. But for that to happen, he must bat higher up. In all likelihood, this is Dhoni’s last ICC tournament as skipper and it’ll be interesting to see if he can cap it off with another World Cup.
With 2633 runs at an average of 65.82, the 25-year-old is the top run-getter of the year. The Kiwi has notched eight hundreds and 13 fifties. He became the second Kiwi to top ICC’s Test rankings.
With 79 days of toil (more than any cricketer this year), Root raked up 2131 runs — the most by an Englishman in a year — at an average of 52. The Yorkshire man also claimed nine crucial wickets.
ICC Cricketer of the Year, Smith contributed 1474 runs at an average of 73.70 and became the top test run-getter of the year. He also got at least one Test century in every series.
ab de villiers
A tally of 1193 runs at an average of 79.53 in limited-overs ensured that no eyelids were batted when De Villiers’s was crowned ICC’s ODI Cricketer of the Year.