ICC World Cup squad profile: Team India carry the burden of a billion dreams again
With all the bits of the jigsaw in place, Rohit Sharma & Co can hope for a successful tilt at the title on home ground
Ask any former cricketer or TV pundit and no prizes for guessing that they will be naming hosts India as a certainty for the top four — if not title favourites. It’s a tag which Rohit Sharma & Co will have to wear lightly on their shoulders if they want to end the drought of a major ICC trophy stretching to 10 years now.
The situation is an all-too-familiar for the Men in Blue - arguably the most star-studded and experienced team, favourable track record against most rivals in bi-lateral contests and an impressive run till the semi-final stage. The last four contest has proved to be their nemesis in both 2015 and 2019 editions, losing to Australia and New Zealand, respectively.
A flashback of the 2019 edition in England shows that their journey through the competition was a smooth one with Rohit Sharma hitting a purple patch with five centuries as they lost only one league round match against England on way to the semi-finals. Then came the heartbreak at the hands of Kiwis when they fell short by 18 runs.
More disappointment followed in the 2021 edition of T20 World Cup (UAE) where they failed to cross the group stage and then 2022 World T20 (Australia) where their campaign ended in an embarrassing manner at the hands of eventual champions England. Meanwhile, they were found wanting in two World Test Championship finals in 2021 and 2023 against New Zealand and Australia, respectively.
The biggest plus this time when they open their campaign against Australia in Chennai on Sunday (October 8) is that the team management has managed to put almost all pieces of the jigsaw in place – with Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma choosing to play it safe. The dilemma could be over playing a three-pronged seam attack of Bumrah-Siraj-Shami or use the first two with Hardik Pandya and play three spinners – a decision which can vary according to conditions.
With India hosting the World Cup on their own for the first time, it will certainly be an added advantage to pursue their dreams – with fitness holding the key in such an arduous campaign.
There is no doubting the fact that the Indian batters, natural strokemakers as they are, have a comfort zone in this format rather than the T20 variety. A strong start against Pat Cummins’ men is what they will be bargaining for to put the campaign on the rails.
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya (vc), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishan Kishan, Surya Kumar Yadav.
Winners: 1983, 2011
Semi-finalists: 1987, 1996, 2015, 2019.