T20 World Cup: Can India buck an imperfect past in the West Indies?

The squad has all the experience but need to conquer their own demons again

Team India in practice in the US (photo: @ImTanujSingh/X)
Team India in practice in the US (photo: @ImTanujSingh/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s now time for India to delve into bit of a journey to the unknown as they begin their campaign in the T20 World Cup in less than a week’s time. If Rohit Sharma’s men are not used to playing on drop-down pitches like in the US where they play all four of their group league matches, they only have bitter memories of the Caribbean in any format of the World Cup.

Not many perhaps remember their dismal campaign in the 2010 World T20 in the West Indies, the third edition of the event, where Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men lost all three of their Super Eight matches against Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia respectively to crash out of the tournament. England, under Paul Collingwood, won their first major ICC trophy on that occasion when Kevin Pietersen was in imperious form to emerge as the Player of the Tournament.

That was barely three years after the debacle of their 2007 campaign in the 50-overs World Cup in the Caribbean, the memories of which still possibly rankle the current head coach Rahul Dravid. The later, then the captain, led a team of galacticos but started with an upset at the hands of Bangladesh and bid adieu to the tournament from the league stages – something which had seriously dented the TV viewership for the rest of the tournament.

The track record of the two past Cup campaigns in the Caribbean may be raked up in the pre-match press conferences before Rohit, who was a part of the 2010 squad, but it need not ideally pose any baggage this time around. The national selectors have, after flirting with the plan of turning a new leaf with their T20 team for the last couple of years, fallen back on the old guard – giving Rohit and Virat Kohli one more shot to bow out of the shortest format in a blaze of glory.

Surya Kumar Yadav during practice in the US
Surya Kumar Yadav during practice in the US

There are, of course, other demons that the Men in Blue will have to contend with – yes, one is talking about the fear of choking on the big occasion.  The latest heartbreak of 19 November is still fresh in memory where after playing some sensational cricket to carve a 10-match winning streak, the hosts were outplayed by the braver Australians in the final. It was, of course, the semi-final jinx before that in at least three World Cups – not to speak of them of falling short in two World Test Championship (WTC) finals.

 Ever since India named their 15-member squad, the post-mortem had begun in right earnest if they have got their combination right for the bigger grounds, albeit with slower wickets, in the Caribbean. The four-member spin attack of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel is more like a calculated gamble – something which the captain alluded to in his press conference after the selection.

 This has, however, left a concern about the lack of a finisher in Rinku Singh – while the current form of a number of prominent members of the squad in IPL also makes them look like a somewhat undercooked side. The biggest worrying points are, of course, the captain and vice-captain though the Indian fan would like to believe they would come to their own in the new environment sans the franchise-driven pressures.

 A look at India’s group-stage games may suggest that apart from the marquee clash against Pakistan on 9 June, the rest will all be easy meat (Ireland, the US and Canada) but there is no room for such complacency. It’s also going to be a tournament of two halves with the entire action shifting from the US to the Caribbean after the group stages – bringing about a sea change in the types of surface.   

After the subject of strike rates dominating the most of IPL, there could hence be a premium on batters who are willing to stay at the wicket to push their totals along. The par scores may change – and that’s something which may be much to the liking of Indian batters.    

Can the Men in Blue then bring back their trophy luck in the ICC tournaments? Let’s wait and watch but for now, it’s about taking one game at a time.

Fixtures: Ireland (5 June), Pakistan (9 June), United States (12 June), Canada (15 June).
Best finish at T20 World Cup: Champions (2007)

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