India: Current ICC ODI ranking: No.2
Main man: Virat Kohli
Appearances – 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
Won – 1983, 2011 (2)
Squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Vijay Shankar, M.S. Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami.
Dubai: If fan base was any criterion for winning the Cricket World Cup, the Men in Blue would have to be considered as hot favourites for this edition of the World Cup. However, the reality is different as the showpiece wears a really open look this time — thanks to the number of potential contenders as well as the format, which calls for a great balance of consistency from the teams in a long tournament as this.
It’s a big psychological advantage to go into the tournament with the best batsman in contemporary cricket in Virat Kohli, but any form of over-reliance on him can be detrimental to the team’s cause. The nature of wickets, if the warm-up matches are any indication, look to be full of runs and the Indian batting line-up needs to consistently rack up 300-plus totals to give their bowlers enough to play with.
The Indian pace trio of Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhubaneshwar Kumar may be a highly regarded one, but it could be the wrist spinners who can be the X-factor on often dry English wickets. The other factor, which may keep the team management wary is the possibility of any of the main bowlers having an injury breakdown as the team members are getting down to action at the wake of a tiring IPL season.
The presence of Virat Kohli, the best batsman in the world at the moment, makes it the biggest strength for the team. The top three in the batting line-up can inspire a sense of awe among any bowling line-up of the world with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan having all the experience in the world to give their team a blazing start. Dhawan, having dispelled all doubts about his form during the last IPL, looks his freeflowing self again and that should be bad news for the rival bowlers.
The bowling line-up has a great deal of variety with each of the three main paceman bringing something to the table — with the spin attack no less in the leg-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal, the chinaman of Kuldeep Yadav and the teasing left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja.
The question mark over the middle order line-up can pose a few questions for Kohli’s men, though the selectors have tried their best to address the issue by opting for experience over talented youth. Having failed to find a clear solution to No.4 connundrum, the team management has kept a number of options open with Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik and all-rounder Vijay Shankar in line to do the job.
There is also a possibility of using Mahendra Singh Dhoni in this key position to give him more number of overs to settle down, but this is where the team management’s decisiveness will come in handy. The other area of worry can be the fitness of the premier bowlers — who will be jumping into the bandwagon within two weeks of the demanding IPL schedule.
The changing nature of the wickets in England, where the competition will be held in late summer, is expected to aid India’s stroke players. The shot selection, however, has to be careful on the basis of opposition and conditions. The abundance of variety in spin attack in England, where dry surfaces will often greet the teams, can offer a window of opportunity and this is where the likes of a Jadeja or Chahal may pose quite a few questions for the batsmen.
The only grey area may be the absence of a quality off-spinner but Kedar Jadhav, India’s partnership breaker in recent times, can deliver the goods with his use of the crease and change of pace.
The World Cup, despite the surfeit of international cricket in recent times, is the biggest stage of the game and it’s no cliche to say that there are no easy games here. With the teams reduced to 10 for this edition, it will offer a bigger depth in competition and India will be have to be wary of all the rivals in the round robin league format.
Pakistan, the ICC Champions Trophy winners in similar conditions in 2017, can prove to be quite a handful and unpredictable as ever. The players are fresh as they don’t play in IPL and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had laid out an ideal blueprint for them by sending the squad to England early to play a full-fledged one-day series against hosts England. They have brought back an out-of-form Mohammad Amir in the hope that the speedster can reproduce some of his rhythm of last Champions Trophy — and all eyes will be on June 16 face-off between the two arch rivals to find out if India can hold on to their winning streak in the World Cup!