All focus turns to India

Six months after ODI WC final, the side is primed for another shot at winning an ICC trophy
(From left) India will need Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav to step up big time with the bat in the T20 WC
(From left) India will need Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav to step up big time with the bat in the T20 WC(Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: November 19, 2023 seems like not too long ago. After a dream run, India had lost to Australia in an ICC tournament final. Yet, in the blink of an eye, the team is where they were on October 7, 2023, embarking on another quest to end their ICC trophy drought.

This time, however, the format is different. The conditions are different. Cricket, as a sport, is taking baby steps in an uncharted territory, the United States. Yet, it all feels the same as 2022 when India lost to England in the semi-finals. And there are enough reasons for it. For starters, five of the top six when Rohit Sharma leads the side onto the field at the Nassau County Cricket Stadium against Ireland is likely to be the same. Rohit, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya.

After that deflating loss to England, it seemed like India were taking a turn in the shortest format, as they brought in fresh faces. It seemed the case throughout 2023 with Hardik leading them. They had also seemingly moved on from Virat and Rohit. However, the injury to Hardik during the ODI World Cup and the resurrection of Rohit the batter, albeit in ODIs, meant India went back to the senior players. With the return of Pant and Hardik, it is more or less the same batting line-up they had in 2022.

However, there are differences. First is the approach. While they tried to buy into it in 2022, it seems like India are finally approaching the T20 format proactively with the bat. Even the likes of Rohit and Kohli have understood the need for it as witnessed in the Indian Premier League (IPL). While they have not confirmed it, that they might actually open with the two senior pros, leaving out Yashasvi Jaiswal, to accommodate another hitter in Shivam Dube is an indication of that. “We’ve got options, so we are obviously not going to reveal our cards just yet, but certainly we’ve got options. Rohit, Jaiswal and Virat opened in the IPL as well. We picked the team keeping in mind that we have three options and we could pick and choose what we wanted depending on the conditions and kind of combination we go into these games with,” India head coach Dravid had said on Sunday.

If the warm-up game is anything to go by, they might have either Pant/Yadav at No. 3 depending on the situation and take it from there. However, what will be interesting to see is if India will go in with three spinners/pacers or play an extra batter in Sanju Samson with Hardik as third seamer. It all might come down to the conditions at the new modular venue built for the tournament. On Sunday, the pitch and out-field came under the lens as Sri Lanka were all out for 77 against South Africa. If the conditions remain the same, it should not come as a surprise to see Arshdeep Singh sharing the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah with Mohammed Siraj out.

Over the past couple of ICC events, the buzz has been about the last dance for the senior players, especially Virat and Rohit. This edition of the T20 World Cup comes as another chance for the duo to get their hands on an ICC trophy. It will also be the last assignment for Dravid as head coach. When asked if there is a sense of unfinished business, Rohit brushed it away saying that all he wants to do is focus on his game and help the team get together.

“I have thought a lot about it. Now I just want to go and play my game, help the team in whatever way I can. And get everyone together to play as a team. That is what I am going to be focusing on. Not looking at the larger picture, I don’t think that will help so much because staying in the present, doing things that are required at that particular time that is important,” Rohit said on the eve of the match.

Indeed. That is what helped India get to the knockouts of the ICC events in the past. 2014 T20 WC final. 2016 and 2022 T20 WC semifinals. 2019 ODI WC semifinal and 2023 final. The question that remains is whether or not Rohit and his teammates will be able to stay in the present and seize the moment come the big matches.

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