Since the end of the 2015 World Cup, India are only one of two teams to have a win percentage of over 50; the other team is England. There have been a few changes in India’s ODI set-up since that tournament, when they made it to the semi-final, eventually losing to defending champions, Australia. MS Dhoni gave up ODI captaincy within 12 months of the 2015 World Cup, and Virat Kohli took over. The Indian team has enjoyed a fair amount of success since then, and many of the players are right up there in the ICC rankings as well.
When India’s squad was announced, a lot of eyelids rose. Players like Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu who were consistently part of India’s ODI squads, were omitted from the squad. Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik made it to the 15 though. All said and done, India have a well-balanced side that easily fall under the ‘favourites’ category. The Men in Blue have some great numbers backing them going into the World Cup.
Power-packed batting unit
India’s top 3 has been well documented and watched over the last few years. If Dhawan doesn’t get you, Rohit will; and if both don’t get you, Kohli will. The number 4 debate was perhaps settled with KL Rahul’s century in the warm-up game. And then, there’s the great man, MS Dhoni to follow. While there have been talks of the English batting line-up getting to 500, don’t be surprised if the Indian batsmen get there earlier.
Kohli and Rohit are the top 2 ranked ODI batsmen at this point. Both of them lead the charts with most ODI hundreds since the last World Cup as well. Dhawan isn’t far behind. He has an amazing record in England and relishes batting here. Since his first ODI in England, Dhawan has scored 976 runs and averages better (65) than anyone who has scored a minimum of 500 runs in the country. The middle order looks quite solid, and it’s safe to say that Dhoni forms the back bone. In what could possibly be his last international assignment for India, he will want to go out with a bang. India may not bat as deep as some of the other teams, but they have a couple of handy lower-order batsmen in the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
Penetrative bowling attack
Team India has always boasted of a strong batting line-up before any World Cup. One thing where they fell behind most teams, is their bowling department. However, their bowling is entirely different from any of their previous line-ups in World Cups. One may not be able to recall the last time India had three of their bowlers in the top 10 list of ODI bowlers’ rankings.
Jasprit Bumrah is the no. 1 bowler in the world at the moment, and facing him with the new or the old ball is one of the toughest challenges for batsmen. India’s top spinners in the last two years or so, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal slot in at nos. 7 and 8 respectively. Additionally, the bowling stock has Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, two world-class pacers. For a change, the Indian batsmen won’t be under constant pressure of scoring big, and will feel that even a score of 250-300 can be defended by their bowlers.
Top quality all-rounders
It may be hard for some to swallow that the Men in Blue have an all-rounder in the spin as well as pace department. Hardik Pandya has gained quite the reputation to come and finish innings for India, and bowl a heavy ball. He enjoyed bowling in English conditions last year, and will be confident of picking up a wicket or two every game.
If Ravindra Jadeja slots into the playing XI, he can bog batsmen down with his accuracy, and can come in to bat low down the order with his clean, innovative hits.
Kedar Jadhav started as a batsmen, but his slingy part-timers have proven to break stubborn partnerships in the recent past. He has a cool head when he has the bat in his hand, and can be an important man to partner MS Dhoni in the lower-middle order.
Vijay Shankar who made his ODI debut earlier this year, was quite impressive with his big hitting during Pandya’s absence. His bowling can prove to be quite useful in English conditions as well. It could be a bit difficult for Shankar to break into the playing XI right at the start, but if he does get in, he will have to perform straight away to keep his place.
Most of the Indian players are fresh off the Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL). They played two warm-up games, the first of which they lost to the Kiwis due to a batting debacle. However, the middle order came to their rescue against Bangladesh in the second warm-up game and they scored 359. The bowlers were right on the money. India did not lose a single game in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup, and the quarter-final, but they lost to the Aussies in the semi-final. India begin their campaign against the Proteas who have lost two back-to-back games, and have also lost Dale Steyn in the tournament. For most of the Indian fans, the more awaited game is the clash against Pakistan on 16th June at Manchester. India have some tough opponents early on in their campaign. If they win most of them, the team will be very high on confidence for the rest of the World Cup.