Captain: MS Dhoni
Champions: (1983, 2011)
v/s Pakistan (Feb 15th)
v/s South Africa (Feb 22nd)
v/s UAE (Feb 28th)
v/s West Indies (Mar 6th)
v/s Ireland (Mar 10th)
v/s Zimbabwe (Mar 14th)
Defending World Champions.
But this team, under MS Dhoni, has lost everything there is to lose since 2011. In stark contrast to their phase from 2009-2011, India has gone back to the 90s since, and has arguably become worse than the lambs-for-slaughter overseas team they once were. Many say this was inevitable, after the retirements of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and the gradual decline of Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Zaheer. But there was no plan B, and India could have learned well from teams like Australia and South Africa—who have consistently phased out their greats in favour of good, new, solid domestic talents NOT based on T20 tournaments.
But what’s done is done. And now India, under the same man who led them to their most glorious moment, find themselves in an unenviable position of not knowing who their best XI is. In this format, all a team needs is 3 good games to win the World Cup, but that looks beyond this young team’s scrambled abilities—even with the likes of Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Since 2000, India have turned a new leaf, and became the only Asian team that consistently challenged Australia. They began to win abroad, and became a powerhouse ODI team. At home, they’re still lions, but this team hasn’t won a single international game on their tours to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia since the beginning of 2013. Their ODI series win in England and their Champions’ Trophy victory there were only glimmers of hope, while they consistently underperformed as soon as they left Indian shores. In 1983, India were no-hopers when they entered the World Cup. They defeated West Indies twice in that tournament, with a dazzling array of all-rounders and bits-and-pieces players. Times have changed. They fought with determination in 2003, but weren’t good enough to defeat Australia. They were humiliated in 2007, before using home conditions to their utmost advantage in 2011. 1996 was an opportunity lost, as was 1987. However, this time, they find themselves as good or as bad as Sri Lanka and Pakistan—both of whom have won Asia Cups over India in the last few years.
Leading into this tournament, India are the only team to have spent two long months in Australia, and have presumably gotten acclimatized to the conditions. Their results in the tri-series, where they lost twice to eternal no-hopers England, prove otherwise. By the end, the Indian playing XI at Perth resembled a bunch of ragtag individuals put together by a captain who had no clue what his batting or bowling order was.
Dhawan has posed serious problems to the selectors. Rahane and Rohit look good to open the innings, and Kohli must play at no. 3. There is no way 3 openers can be played in the top 3 spots again like in 2011, where India got away with Gambhir coming at 3 to accommodate Tendulkar and Sehwag at the top. Perhaps Dhawan, who has always been an opener, can be tried in the middle order at 4, followed by Raina, Dhoni and Binny. If Jadeja plays, and he shouldn’t because he is redundant on most pitches, he should bat with more responsibility. Akshar has been disappointing with the bat, but has done well with the ball. And then, there are the bowlers. Bhuvaneshwar doesn’t look the same after his injury and Grade A contract, and Shami and Yadav look hopelessly inconsistent. There is almost no hope for this bowling line-up to restrict any team to less than 280 on the big grounds. And then it will be up to the batsmen, who will have to be led by Kohli—who was woefully out of form in the 3 ODIs he played in the tri-series. That they let England whip them twice is a statement, and one wonders what will happen when they face Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies in 3 of their first 4 Cup matches. The Pakistan match will be hyped the most, but a loss there will send shivers down Indian spines before facing AB and co.
India could finish 3rd in their group, and perhaps face New Zealand or
in the quarterfinals. If they do face either one of them, it’s curtains for the defending champs. Surely.