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CLOSE-IN: India looks to be firm favourite to win the T20 World Cup (IANS Column)

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CLOSE-IN: India looks to be firm favourite to win the T20 World Cup (IANS Column)May 3, 2024The next big cricket bonanza to get underway in the West Indies and USA on June 1 is the T20 World Cup. The ICC should be given kudos for having 20 teams participating in it. Each one of them have sent the names of their 15-member squad. This has caused a few ripples in sides that are blessed with plenty of options.
The inclusion and exclusion of players is always a debatable issue amongst cricket followers and lovers of the game. Cricket somehow brings it more prominently to the fore compared to most of the other sports.A tournament with 20 national representative sides is truly wonderful for the game and just the tonic required to spread cricket all over the globe. The 20 overs a side is just the ideal cricket format to introduce the minnow sides against the big boys of cricket. The equation as regards superiority between sides reduces drastically because of the nature of the game.The slam-bang version requires far less technical batting skills and more eye-hand coordination with brute muscular power to play it. Cricket is anyway a game of uncertainties and it gets far more magnified, especially, in T20. A stupendous batting or bowling performance by just a few individuals of a weaker side could topple the best of sides on a given day. The T20, therefore, is the ideal platform, wherein, one will for sure witness a few topsy-turvy results in the upcoming World Cup’24.India is the ICC’s top-ranking T20 side at present and therefore the favourites to win the trophy that has eluded them since their inaugural win in 2007. The Indian squad of 15 may have a few questionable inclusions, however, overall, the selectors have played the conservative and safe options in their selection. Naming Rohit Sharma as the captain 3 months in advance has itself given one the indication that a straight and narrow path will be the order of the day. One hoped for an “out of the box” thought process, however, this definitely did not happen. One does understand why the selection committee took such a view, as leaving out the big stars of Indian cricket could make them the punching bag of criticism if India happens to lose. Furthermore, the ICC tournament depends on the big names of Indian cricket to make it commercially successful and their presence, therefore, is an important ingredient to do so.The ICC ODI World Cup in 2007 in the West Indies was a good example of it. India lost in the league stage itself and the financial impact of it was disastrous for the ICC.The T20 requires a very different mindset, a player has to have a risk-averse approach and be brash and confident with young fit legs to carry one through. The Indian squad has nearly 70% of players especially, in their possible playing eleven who have been a part of the previous World Cup T20 and ODI losing sides. These players will need to transform themselves into a youthful approach to be successful. This will require a very different mindset.Indian players are the most experienced ones in T20 cricket. It is the “fear of failure” that knocks their mental state of mind. On paper, India looks to be a formidable side. They have the 2 leading batters in world cricket in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. India has the number one T20 batsman in Suryakumar Yadav and the best pace bowler in Jasprit Bumrah.They also have the most dashing and destructive batter and wicketkeeper in Rishabh Pant. A wrist-spinning combination of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and also spinning allrounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel. Even though there has been criticism in the selection of Hardik Pandya, he is the only pace-bowling all-rounder in India at present and he has the skill and capability to hit the ball a mile off. The inclusion of Shivam Dube as an alternative allrounder into the squad could give Hardik just the push and aggression to shine and showcase his natural skill, talent and form. Not many other sides can boast of players of this calibre amongst them and therefore one feels India has the potential to win the T20 World Cup this time around.The most redeeming factor as regards the Indian team is that they will be approaching the T20 WC’24 after the IPL. The players will be well-tuned mentally and physically to play in this format. This should make a tremendous difference in the way they could subconsciously execute their cricketing skills without fear. Furthermore, the selected Indian cricket players have enough matches in the IPL for them to experiment and develop newer skills and options.India and Pakistan have been grouped along with Ireland, USA and Canada in Group ‘A’. The clash of the 2 titans of Asian cricket at the league stage on June 9 in New York at present the toast of the tournament. Both India and Pakistan should make it comfortably to the next league stage in 2 different groups comprising 4 teams. The true test of each side’s strength will only come forth then, as only the top 2 sides of the group will carry forward to the semi-finals.The only worry that one can foresee that can elude an Indian victory is not in their skill but in their state of mind.One gets the feeling that with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Indian side will come out all guns blazing. A win against Pakistan could be just the booster shot required to catapult them into exhilaration. After all, India are the favourites.(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal.)–IANSbc/https://ians.in/detail/close-in-india-look-to-be-firm-favourite-to-win-the-t20-world-cup-ians-column–20240503085558/

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