Oct 7, 2022: The Indian cricket team has embarked on its journey for the T20 World Cup 2022 to be played in Australia. This is wonderful news as the team will get enough time to get acclimatised to the conditions Down Under.
India play their first match on October 23 at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground against arch-rivals Pakistan. This is the most crucial match for the Indian side as a defeat in it could put them in deep waters to qualify. The main rivals, thereafter, are South Africa, Bangladesh and possibly the West Indies, if they qualify from their group games.
India should have got over their disappointing performance in the Asia Cup 2022, having beaten Australia and South Africa in a three-match T20I series at home. The only blemish for India was that they lost their last match against South Africa solely due to experimenting with their bench strength players – the reason being that India had already wrapped up the series and felt that they could do with a change.
One felt that India needed to keep their winning momentum intact, as a loss may not seem important but it has a lingering impact on a team’s confidence inadvertently.
The Indian team may rue the fact that their lethal frontline bowler in Jasprit Bumrah, unfortunately, due to injury, will not be a part of their side. However, India do have a battery of pacers in their fold to choose from.
The most difficult adaptation required for any side to play in Australia is to get used to their wickets and conditions. The additional bounce off the wicket is one area that has been difficult to handle for most batsmen. Fortunately, the Indian team will have a fortnight to get acclimatised through a few practice matches and net sessions.
The T20 game is one in which batters have to start playing their shots from the very first delivery. This is where the challenge lies for the Indian batters as the shots that one is used to playing in India on a particular delivery are hugely different from what one needs to play in Australia. Similarly for the bowlers, the length to bowl varies substantially from what one is used to back home.
India, on their last trip to Australia in 2020/21, did fairly well in both the T20I and Test series, and one hopes that they are able to recollect and adjust their game accordingly. They now have the time to do so.
India’s batting strength is far ahead of any of their rivals. A team that boasts of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav as the top-four batters and the likes of Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and the canny Dinesh Karthik to follow. This is a dream line-up for any side.
India also boast of having some very good spin options. They have a leg-spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal, the accurate left-arm spin of Axar Patel and the world’s top off-spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin. The larger Australian grounds will suit them far better, and both Melbourne and Sydney wickets have shown that one can derive turn on them as well. Spin will play a very important part in the tournament and India fortunately are well equipped in that department.
The only area of worry is in India’s pace bowling options. Although Bhuvneshwar Kumar is an experienced bowler, the likes of Arshdeep Singh and Harshal Patel have still to earn their spurs. Mohammed Shami as a replacement for Bumrah, if fit, would be an ideal option.
The Indian players, having had the advantage of playing the IPL, are now very familiar with the T20 concept and the situations that one confronts while playing it.
India started well in the Asia Cup by beating Pakistan but, thereafter, they faltered against them as well as Sri Lanka. The losses were not because of their cricketing skills but more in the way they approached the matches mentally.
The problem with the Indian team is the pressure that they put themselves into because of the hype that follows them. The millions of well-wishers and fans may look like a wonderful following but they can become a heavy burden to carry on ones’ shoulders as well.
Team India needs to approach the T20 World Cup without the worry of winning the Cup. They need to play in a carefree manner without thinking about the outcome. India’s victory in the inaugural tournament in the T20 World Cup in 2007 was achieved by a young side that one least expected to win because they played without a care.
India are the current No. 1-ranked T20 side in the world. This they have achieved through their consistent performances this year. The unfortunate fallout from being at the top is that everyone expects India to win. This has been the tale of woe since 2014 in all the multi-nation ICC tournaments.
One feels that the Indian team looks far more comfortable and determined approaching this World Cup. The expectations of their followers are also much less, having been disappointed in the past. The time is just right for India to shine. A Diwali victory on the eve of the festival against Pakistan would be just the right way for India to start their campaign.
India have the firepower to win, it is only the mental belief to do so that they seem to falter on, when put under pressure.
The Indian Women’s cricket team seems to be on the verge of winning the Asia Cup 2022. Their victory could be just the catalyst and booster for the men to emulate.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)