The T20 World Cup will mark the end of an era with Virat Kohli relinquishing captaincy of the Indian team in the shortest format after the marquee event. While the Asian powerhouse has scaled great heights under his tutelage, an ICC trophy has eluded Kohli’s reign as a leader. He would be keen to sign off on a winning note and India has the wherewithal to add the glitter of silverware to his empty cabinet this time around. That MS Dhoni, who led India to victory in the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup, is set to serve as mentor bodes well for a captain eyeing a quantifiable feather to his cap.
Strengths: India tick most boxes that a prime favourite should. They boast of an explosive batting line-up, with KL Rahul worthy of a special mention given the red-hot form he is in. The emergence of Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav shores up the middle-order, enabling the heavyweights at the top to go about their business in a carefree manner. Spinners will come to the party on the abrasive decks of the UAE, more so because of the wear and tear caused by relentless action in the second leg of IPL 2021.
Star Turns: Jasprit Bumrah is a shrewd death-over merchant and his knack of bamboozling batsmen with slower deliveries and inch-perfect yorkers is worth its weight in gold. A sound campaign for Bumrah will be instrumental in shrugging off India’s eight-year ICC title drought.
Achilles Heel: The omission of Yuzvendra Chahal, India’s leading wicket-taker in T20s, could backfire as counterpart Rahul Chahar is short on international experience. Question marks also swirl around Hardik Pandya’s ability to bowl his full quota, something which is paramount to India’s squad balance. Keeping that in mind, Shardul Thakur has been roped in at the expense of Axar Patel.
X-Factor: The mystery balls sent down by Varun Chakravarthy have proven hard to pick and it is the reason behind the tweaker’s swift induction into the national fold, the fitness-based mishaps notwithstanding. He is a canny operator who bowls within his limits despite the slew of variations up his sleeve. A tally of 33 wickets in the last two IPL seasons while managing an economy of under 7 makes for impressive reading.
Current Bookies View: India are 11/4, which looks about right, providing Virat can get over his barren run in ICC tournaments as skipper.
The Guerilla View – Anindya Dutta
Talent oozing out of every pore. A healthy disrespect for big reputations bred over 13 seasons of IPL. Speed. Spin. Mind-numbing stroke play. Eyeball stretching maximums – Dear Stuart Broad, Remember Yuvraj Singh? New heroes – Ishan Kishan & Rishabh Pant. Unexpected Zero – Hardik Pandya.