Outgoing chairman of selectors K Srikkanth has said that he is “overconfident” that India will win the T20 World Cup that begins in Sri Lanka this month. He won the ODI WC both as player and selector and will be itching to go out in style with a hat-trick.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who is one of the straightest talkers around, has backed him on this and has said that we are favourites.
Both of them could well be right. The 0-8 debacle hit Tests and that too on foreign soil. We have been doing more consistently in the shorter formats of the game.
A look at why India’s chances are bright this time.
Comfortable in Sri Lanka: From 1999 to July 2008, we had one of our worst records in Sri Lanka. Out of the 9 series and tournaments (combined Tests and ODIs) we played there, we failed to win even won series outright. Our only success was the ICC Champions Trophy, which we shared with the hosts.
The tables have now turned. From August 2008 to now, of the 9 series we have played, we have lost only one. It is safe to say that Lanka soil is almost as good as home for us now. The current team loves Lankan conditions which will suit both our batsmen and spinners.
Incidentally we have played two T20 internationals there and won both of them.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka automatically become favourites and the rest of the world has always struggled on Lankan soil.
Batsmen in form: Given everything, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are still our best bet for openers. In 2011, Sehwag touched the 175 mark for the first time in ODIs and later breached the 200 mark.
Virat Kohli is in sizzling form and now has two back to back half centuries in T20s. You can always count on captain MS Dhoni for his hard hitting. Suresh Raina may be out of form in Tests, but that is not the case with the shorter formats.
Yuvraj Singh made a decent comeback to international cricket. In the T20 match against New Zealand, he made 34 runs, bowled two overs and took a catch. He will be the X factor of the team.
Out of the Top 10 run getters in IPL 2012, four are in the current T20 squad: Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina and Rohit Sharma. Incidentally, Sehwag had a higher tournament strike rate than Orange Cap sensation Chris Gayle.
Bowling more balanced: Zaheer Khan emerged as the top wicket taker in the 2011 World Cup. This may well be his last WC and his experience and guile will really come in handy. Zaheer also picked up a healthy 17 wickets in IPL 2012 to show that he still has it within him to be a match winner in T20s too.
The other encouraging sign is the return of Irfan Pathan. When Pathan burst into the scene, he had this knack of picking up top order wickets. He was also the man of the match in the T20 final in 2007. Then he was in the wilderness. But now he is back in form and that along with his batting skills will give the much-needed balance to the team.
R Ashwin is also in sizzling form in Tests. He probably could be called the best spinner in the sub-continent right now. While he has not done that well international T20s, this is his chance to rectify that.
Piyush Chawla will look to his 16 wickets in IPL 2012 for inspiration. If Harbhajan Singh is picked up in the Playing XI, then you can be sure that he will give it his 100%, the fighter that he is.
The luck of Dhoni: Dhoni has had few major failures in his illustrious captaincy: 0-7 on foreign soil in Tests and the last two T20 World Cups. It is doubtful that he will be unlucky thrice in a row. He is due for a big win as captain. He has also reached two successive IPL finals to show that he still has it in the shorter format of the game.
Dhoni is in fine batting knick himself and when the captain leads from the front, it always lifts the team.
There are also no distractions this time. Cramped schedules and fatigue is not an issue and the current squad looks fit and raring to go.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/