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World T20 India's final chance to restore reputation!

Last updated on: March 11, 2014 16:06 IST

World T20 India's final chance to restore reputation!

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Harish Kotian

With the World T20 being played in familiar conditions in neighbouring Bangladesh, India’s hopes of regaining the crown they won in 2007, says Harish Kotian, rest on their bowlers.

The World T20 provides India a final chance in a forgettable season to get back to winning ways and restore pride after disastrous performances away from home in recent months.

Since leaving home shores, Team India ended up losing one match after another across all formats. They were blanked in the Test and ODI series in South Africa and New Zealand 1-0 and 4-0 respectively.

Even the just-concluded Asia Cup ODI tournament proved disastrous for the World champions, who were beaten by Pakistan and eventual champions Sri Lanka, while only posting consolation victories over minnows Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

India’s bowling is a major worry, especially in One-Day Internationals, in which the team has been regularly hammered for totals in excess of 300. With the World T20 being played in familiar conditions in neighbouring Bangladesh, they will be looking to their spinners to make an impact after below-par performances outside the sub-continent.

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Image: Indian cricket team form a huddle
Photographs: BCCI

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Dhoni led India to victory in the inaugural World T20 in 2007

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Harish Kotian

India will take confidence from the fact that they won the inaugural tournament in 2007 and boast of a very strong team. But despite the vast experience of their players playing in the shortest format, courtesy the Indian Premier League, they inexplicably fared poorly in the last three editions of the WT20.

2007 was India's first taste of T20 cricket and it proved a watershed moment for the sport. The triumph in the inaugural World T20 paved the way for the formation of the cash-rich Indian Premier league a year later, and the tournament has gone on to become one of the hottest properties in world sport.

Gautam Gambhir led the charge in the 2007 edition, scoring 277 runs, including a blazing 75 in the final that helped India edge past Pakistan by five runs.

Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes against England’s Stuart Broad is etched in the history of Indian sport. But the most important positive for Indian cricket from that tournament was the beginning of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s successful run as India captain.

Handed the T20 captaincy in that tournament, he led the team to glory in his first attempt and since then registered many a victory in all formats of the game.

Left-arm pacer RP Singh also played a key role in the triumph, taking 12 wickets, including 3 for 26 in the final, which also saw Irfan Pathan bowl a splendid spell and claim three wickets for 16 runs.

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Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni celebrates with his team mates after winning the ICC World T20 2007 final against Pakistan in Johannesburg.
Photographs: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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Team India were knocked out early in 2009 and 2012

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Harish Kotian

However, two years later, India struggled to defend its crown. They were thrashed in the Super Eights stage, losing all their three matches – to South Africa, England and the West Indies.

Virender Sehwag failed to play a single game in the tournament, having had to pull out mid-way because of a shoulder injury.

It was the short ball that proved India’s undoing on the bouncy tracks of England as the batsmen struggled to come to grips with the conditions.

In the 2010 tournament in the West Indies, India were routed in the Group Stages itself with three defeats to Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies.

In 2012, with their players having featured in a lot of T20 games, courtesy the IPL, a better show was expected from the team, but, again, India failed to make it beyond the Super Eights stage. They beat South Africa and Pakistan in the Super Eights, but a heavy defeat to Australia ultimately cost them a spot in the semi-finals, as arch-rivals Pakistan sneaked through on better net run-rate.

That tournament, however, saw the emergence of Virat Kohli. His consistent batting was the lone bright spot in India’s campaign, as he scored 185 runs in five matches, at an average of 46, even as the big guns, like Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, failed to fire.

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Image: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (centre) with Gautam Gambhir (left) and Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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India's bowling needs to improve

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Harish Kotian

This time, the World T20 assumes more importance for India than ever, given their recent dismal performances.

They are placed in a tough group, which comprises defending champions West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and a qualifier.

With only two teams out of five making it to the semi-finals from each group, India will have to win at least three of the four matches to go through.

As West Indies, Australia and Pakistan boast of some big-hitting batsmen in their line-up, the onus is on India's bowlers to deliver. Unless there is huge improvement in that department, repeating the magic the team created in the inaugural edition will remain a dream.


Image: Ravichandran Ashwin
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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