Playing in their backyard while eyeing an ICC title that has eluded them since 2013, the Men in Blue get another opportunity to replicate the winning exploits of Kapil’s Devils (1983) and M.S. Dhoni’s merry band (2011).
The ICC World Cup’s 13th edition played across India from this Thursday to November 19, will also witness Rohit Sharma’s men clocking excessive air-miles as they criss-cross the nation.
Ever since the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy victory, India has faltered in the climactic stages of inter-continental tournaments. It is a result that goes against the grain as in bilateral jousts, be it Tests, ODIs and T20Is, India, under Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and now Rohit, have found ways to emerge on top.
The latest World Cup offers a chance at redemption and hopefully the word ‘choke’, that shadows India in global championships, would be consigned to the sidelines.
India has the batting arsenal right from the troika of Rohit, Shubman Gill and Kohli, to the middle-order with K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer stepping up.
That Suryakumar Yadav is yet to fully discover his voice in ODIs unlike the roar he unleashes in T20Is, is a worry but the management has faith in him.
Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round skills could also be a key factor especially as the subsequent tail looks weak. Getting the playing eleven right could be a challenge as the temptation would always be about fortifying the batting arm. That Rahul is donning the wicketkeeping gloves much like coach Rahul Dravid, who did the same in the distant past, is a pointer to this philosophy.
Even if the talented Ishan Kishan is in the ranks, equally adept behind the stumps and with the willow in front of it, an injured Rishabh Pant’s absence would be felt.
Seamers Jasprit Bumrah and the Mohammeds — Shami and Siraj, should be automatic choices but as a batting trio, they may not yield much and whether that could open up a berth for Shardul Thakur remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, R. Ashwin’s return augurs well. He, Kuldeep Yadav and the other spinners need to stay tight in the middle overs besides prising out wickets. India has a strong unit but in a long tournament, fitness levels have to be maintained.
ACE IN THE PACK
Hardik Pandya could be India’s talisman. His ability to clear the ropes, bowl with zest and field with alacrity, offers an all-round option that should bolster Rohit Sharma’s men. Having emerged from an injury-hiatus, Hardik has moved on from that fragile phase and India needs him at his best.
And the path towards that victor’s podium starts with a small but crucial step: Sunday’s match against Australia at Chennai’s M.A. Chidambaram Stadium!