Will India Rise to the Occasion in World T20?
England and India played out a thrilling T20I series in March as Virat Kohli came from 2-1 down to secure a 3-2 victory on home soil. The two sides were evenly matched and perhaps gave a preview of a potential World T20 Final.
The Three Lions reached the final in 2016, only to be beaten by the West Indies and the brilliance of Carlos Brathwaite, smashing Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes. Eoin Morgan and his team have since turned their attention to the shortest form of the game after winning the 50-over World Cup. So, England will now aim to become the first team to hold both 20-over and 50-over World titles concurrently.
India, on the other hand, has to dispel the notion that they are underachievers, as they have not won the World T20 since the inaugural competition in 2007. Despite the success of the Indian Premier League, and the superstars that have emerged, India has been underwhelming on the big stage. As a result, Virat Kohli and his men will be feeling the pressure, especially since the tournament is being played on home soil.
The team will be leading contenders for the crown but will face fierce competition from the field. India's first task is to find a balanced line-up amid the embarrassment of riches that they have at their disposal. The batting ranks are extremely well stocked with familiar names such as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, although India was keen to push Kohli up the order towards the end of the series against England.
Kohli has preferred to sit at number three, but India followed the example of England's promotion of Jos Buttler to the top of the order to allow their best player the maximum number of deliveries. The captain has since become an opener for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, who is one of the top contenders in the online sports betting odds and a popular choice for sports fans worldwide. Considering their current position, India could be set to end their losing streak.
Meanwhile, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, and Lokesh Rahul are also available. It's all good and well boasting the talent, but India needs to ensure that their star players complement each other in the line-up. Boasting Pant and Pandya down the order highlights the potential of the team, but those players have to get on the field first to make a decisive impact.
The bowling ranks are equally well-stocked. Jasprit Bumrah is arguably the best T20 bowler in the world, displaying a powerful yorker in his armoury. The 27-year-old leads the attack and is not only potent but also miserly with the ball in hand, frustrating even the best batsmen in the game.
Alongside Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami round out an extremely talented line-up, who also have a great deal of experience at the international level along with the IPL. Their ability to hold their composure under pressure could make or break India's prospects for closing out a second World T20 crown. Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar are also pushing Kumar and Shami for spots in the side, highlighting the quality depth Kohli and company have at their disposal.
Interestingly for India, their biggest concern could be their choice of spinners. Yuzvendra Chahal has been up and down of late, while Kuldeep Yadav's form has tailed off significantly after a breakout in 2018. Washington Sundar provides an all-round presence, but he does not have the experience of his counterparts, especially in the high-stakes realm of an international competition.
India has a lot going in its favour for the World T20 when it commences towards the end of 2021. They have home conditions and arguably the most talented squad in the competition. Kohli and his men have proved their mettle against England among others of late, but will have to channel that form into a flawless run in the tournament to end their trophy drought.