Since winning the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 back in 2007, India has never progressed to the semi- finals of the mega event. It is with that record that the team now prepares for its next international assignment — the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
That triumph in South Africa was what jumpstarted M. S. Dhoni’s captaincy career but, seven years later, he will need to get his hurting team to turn its recent fortunes around quickly.
It’s strange that the country that produces the biggest T20 spectacle every year, the Indian Premier League, has played just one T20I since January 1, 2013 — a Yuvraj Singh-inspired win over Australia in Rajkot.
In ODI cricket, India have had an odd last 12 months. First, they went on a winning run that included a series win over England, the Champions Trophy triumph in England, the tri-series win in West Indies, and series victories over Zimbabwe and Australia.
However, beginning with the tour to South Africa in December, India have been in freefall, notching up wins over lowly Bangladesh and Afghanistan while losing to all the other higherprofile teams.
In such a backdrop, it’s not a stretch to think that Dhoni & Co.
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have to do some soul-searching and come up with answers, or the demanding fan base will continue to bay for the players’ blood.
Compare India’s fortunes with those of the other contenders, and it is obvious they are far from being favourites. Pakistan, a team that has been in the semi-finals of the World T20 twice, the runner-up once and the winner in 2009, is showing signs of brilliance again. Mohammad Hafeez’s men have won two-thirds of their recent T20 matches, but the biggest positive for them is the return of the mercurial-butbrilliant Shahid Afridi to good form.
Afridi was seemingly made for T20, and showed this with his huge performances in the first two editions of the event. And now, having won two ODIs on the trot with his big hitting, confidence will be oozing from his body.
West Indies, the defending champions, have too many T20 specialists not to be a factor, even in the absence of the injured Kieron Pollard. In Sri Lanka in 2012, they gelled well together under Darren Sammy, and the wickets in Bangladesh will suit their big-hitting batsmen and medium-pace bowlers.
Sri Lanka have done well of late in all formats, and with a nice blend of youth and experience, can be expected to shed the tag of bridesmaids that they’ve earned through several runner-up finishes in world-level events.
South Africa and Australia will always be factors, given the sheer quality of players they possess, while New Zealand have often shown the ability to elevate their game in multi-team tournaments, and with the likes of Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Corey Anderson in their line-up, can be a factor too.
It’s only the Kevin Pietersen-less England who could struggle to keep up with the other big teams.
There are also eight other teams in fray through the preceding qualifying tournament — Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, UAE, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Netherlands and Nepal — but it would take a lot for them to match the big boys.
All in all, India do seem to have a tough task on their hands.
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