2007 – Won World Cup, beating Pakistan in Final
2009 – Exit in Super 8s, losing all 3 matches
2010 – Exit in Super 8s, losing all 3 matches
2012 – Exit in Super 8s, winning 2 out of 3
2014 – Lost Final to Sri Lanka
A long-haired young wicketkeeper named MS Dhoni, only recently elevated to the position of captain after a disastrous ODI World Cup under Rahul Dravid, gives the ball to Joginder Sharma. His team has won 3 huge must-win games in a row – beating England, South Africa and Australia after losing to New Zealand initially. Now, they stand on the precipice of what could be their finest achievement since 1983. Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan batsman who burst onto the scene in his 30s, stands in between. He slams Joginder for two sixes down the ground, and he has the no. 11 for company at the other end. He then plays a shot that will go down in folklore. If not for his senile scoop (which Sreesanth happily pouches at short fine leg), Pakistan could have won the inaugural T20 World Cup. If not for the shot, Pakistan wouldn’t have won the next World Cup, spurred on by painful memories of that day. Such is cricket. However, over the next 2 World Cups, India failed to win a single T20 match out of their 6 Super 8 games. In 2012, they did better, but exited on run-rate to rivals Pakistan. In 2014, they looked unbeatable right till the final – where they ran into a Sangakkara-inspired Lankan team.
India is world no. 1, winning 11 out of their last 12 T20 games – 7 in a row now – the only team to do that twice in this format. India has also won the maximum number of matches since the last World Cup (14), 10 in 2016 alone. The 3-0 whitewash Down Under, followed by a 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka at home, followed by 5 consecutive Asia Cup victories – handing them their 5th Asia Cup title, the maximum won by an Asian team. Sri Lanka is second with 5, and Pakistan has won just 2. Bangladesh has now reached 2 finals, both at home, and lost to Pakistan (2012) and India (2016). As unlikely as this sounds, India is currently the best T20 team in world cricket – and 3 months ago, they were at no. 8, and weren’t even mentioned in the same breath as West Indies or Sri Lanka. They will be the team to beat – especially because this is the first T20 Cup to be held at home. Their main rival in their own group will probably be Bangladesh (who first have to qualify) – because the others, Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand are far from settled in this format.
Suresh Raina hasn’t gotten enough time in the middle, and he looked very questionable against Pakistan. His form is crucial to India’s finishing prospects, considering the fact that Pandya is yet to come to terms with the art of batting in the final overs. There are no other weaknesses for now, because India had the most complete tournament from start to end in the Asia Cup – one of the rare performances that justify their top-of-the-world status.
Shikhar Dhawan is back in his luck-oriented, streaky form, and just in time, too. Virat Kohli averages 85 while chasing, and a monstrous 53 in T20I cricket – a freakish record, and he was also the Player Of The Tournament in the 2014 World T20. Rohit Sharma looks in fine touch too, but he has to figure out a way to make a difference in crucial games. MS Dhoni came and finished the final with some huge sixes, and got some confidence ahead of the tournament. He looked to be the Dhoni of old for those few minutes, as Yuvraj did in the matches against Sri Lanka and UAE. Their bowling – especially Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra at the top – is perfect for these conditions, and R. Ashwin at home is as formidable as Muralitharan used to be in Lankan conditions. Hardik Pandya had a very good Asia Cup too (except the final, mauled by Mahmudullah), but he has to work harder on his big hitting.
India will reach the Final, after which it becomes a bit of a lottery. One only hopes they haven’t peaked too soon, and have saved their best for the knockout stages of the World T20. As of now, they are the only ones who can beat themselves – and except the mercurial West Indians, they have no other competitors on par.