Cricket

T20 World Cup Preview, Part 3: How India And Other Teams Measure Up

The concluding part of this three-article series dissects the team combinations of all the contenders to the 2024 T20 World Cup throne. The author also evaluates the factors at play, when it comes to India's chances of winning the title again after 17 years

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Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah could be the key to India's campaign at the 2024 T20 World Cup. Photo: File
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Coming back to the 2024 T20 World Cup, if we look at the bowlers in this edition, it would probably be only those who have that ‘something extra,’ like Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Trent Boult and Jofra Archer, who will consistently trouble the batters, bowling tight, hostile spells, stopping runs and picking up wickets in the process. Together with accurate, difficult-to-get-away spinners like Kuldeep Yadav or Rashid Khan, they could make a big difference to this tournament, and be the key to defending and restricting targets. (Full IPL Coverage | More Cricket News)

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

And India might just miss an in-form T Natarajan there, who has been so good with his accurate yorkers in this format. He has unfortunately not been very visible for India after a great debut in Australia nearly four years ago, and would have lent an edge to the Indian attack with his deliveries arrowing in from a different angle. More so when paired with an equally accurate Jasprit Bumrah firing in his yorkers, in a left – right combination in the death overs.

Tight, restrictive bowling, coupled with the ability to take wickets in the powerplay and curtail ‘big’ overs at the death, will be the key to success at this World Cup, and Natarajan and Bumrah would have probably been a great combination in this role.

Time To Gel

As far as preparations go for the World Cup, the South Africans visited West Indies and England are hosting Pakistan in two bilateral T20 series. India, on the other hand, is going into the tournament straight after the IPL. Theoretically that should be enough preparation in itself, but practically what it means is that the India T20 World Cup side has not played together as a team as yet, and the players have not had the chance to understand their specific roles in it.

Considering that this is a World Cup that India have not won in 17 years, they would want to give themselves the best possible chance of getting the team combinations and dynamics absolutely right. A point reiterated by Sam Curran when speaking about the importance of the England- Pakistan series. He said: “We want to be playing as (an England) team and get used to our roles. It’s quite hard to go straight into a big tournament if you haven’t played together. (Playing against Pakistan) is a hugely important series.”

Not long ago, England had come in off a rest, as defending champions at the ODI World Cup in India, and before they realised what was happening, had lost a string of matches and blown their chances of making it to the knockout stage.

Australia's Chances

Australia have always been a formidable contender at ICC tournaments and routinely find the firepower in crucial matches that takes the game away from their opponents. And while they have a number of players who will step up and deliver at crucial moments, their batting will tend to revolve around the dangerous Travis Head and skipper Mitch Marsh at the top of the order.

They will also rely heavily on Glenn Maxwell, and his having a good World Cup is absolutely crucial to their chances. He has had a pretty wretched IPL by his standards, but with his ability to ‘explode’ at any given time, Maxwell is always just a few hits away from one of the blazing, game-changing knocks that he has played so often in the past.

Glenn Maxwell can demolish any bowling attack when on song.
Glenn Maxwell can demolish any bowling attack when on song. Photo: File/AP
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And ahead of the World Cup, the Australians have rewarded their young ‘smoking gun,’ Jake Fraser-McGurk, and added him to the squad as a travelling reserve, on the strength of his swashbuckling IPL performances.

India, however, chose not to adopt that policy and after Virat Kohli, the next three Indian batters in the top 5 on the IPL Purple Cap rankings, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Riyan Parag and Sai Sudharsan, are not a part of the side in any capacity for the T20 World Cup. Nor are any of the uncapped youngsters who bowled so well for their teams in the tough conditions of the IPL.

Which is a pity, given that T20 cricket is so much about current form, rather than past reputations and records. It is so much an ‘on the day, in the moment’ thing.

Can England Defend Their Title?

Defending champions England also look good with the in-form Jos Buttler, Phil Salt and Will Jacks, fresh from their IPL heroics, making up their top order. And with Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali to follow, they pack a lot of punch in their batting on a good day.

After their disastrous ODI World Cup campaign, England will be desperately looking to redeem themselves as defending champions, and re-establish their credentials in white-ball cricket.

India's Worries

The Indian team has some worrying issues too, going into the World Cup, and while they have Virat Kohli with 741 runs in red-hot form, winning the IPL Orange Cap yet again by a mile, skipper Rohit Sharma had a patchy tournament and young Yashasvi Jaiswal, so impressive at last year’s IPL and in the recent England series, has been a disappointment this time around.

As has vice-captain Hardik Pandya, who has generally faced a lot of flak from various quarters in recent times.

Suryakumar Yadav is in decent form,and will be very keen to make a mark at this World Cup, in his favourite format. While Rishabh Pant is still feeling his way back from a long road-accident injury lay-off and although he did well at the IPL, he has not played international cricket for a long time, and the questions around him will remain for now. Playing the in-form Sanju Samson as a batter may be an option that the Indian team could look at, in times of need.

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Much of India’s chances will however, revolve around Kohli having a great tournament. He would be equally keen to seize this chance of becoming a T20 World Cup winner, and perhaps becoming the highest run-getter at a T20 World Cup again for a record fourth time, after the 2014, 2016 and 2022 editions.

Amongst the overseas players who had a great IPL, the most prominent Sunil Narine stands out. He will however, not be at the World Cup as things stand now. From scoring 488 runs in15 innings and scalping 17 wickets, Narine has been phenomenal at this IPL. But teammate Andre Russell’s efforts to convince him to play for the West Indies notwithstanding, it seems unlikely that he will do so at this World Cup. The 36-year-old last played for West Indies in 2019 and announced his retirement from international cricket in 2023.

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Players To Watch Out For

Amongst the other overseas players who have done well at the IPL this year, are South Africans Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs, David Miller and Gerald Coetzee, Australians Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jake-Fraser Mcgurk and Tim David, West Indians Nicolas Pooran and Andre Russell, and though a little patchy, Kiwis Daryl Mitchell, Rachin Ravindra and Trent Boult, to name a few.

On present form they would all be players to watch out for in the World Cup as well.

But there are others who haven’t had a great IPL this year, like Glenn Maxwell, or were not here this time, who can suddenly find an incandescent burst of form and seize a match by the scruff of its neck. And we haven’t really seen the runners-up of the last T20 World Cup Pakistan as yet, although they are now playing a rain-affected preparatory T20 series against England, with Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman getting some good runs.

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Interestingly, the Pakistan team is playing under their new coach Gary Kirsten, who mentored India to an ODI World Cup title in 2011.

New Zealand, The Perennial Dark Horses

And of course, there is the perpetually underestimated New Zealand side that has always punched well above its weight in recent times, apart from being wonderful ambassadors for the sport in the way they conduct themselves. They would always be dark horses at any ICC tournament, a team to look out for, that will always be dangerous and always in contention.

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So all in all, it promises to be another exciting 29 days of T20 cricket ahead, with a record 20 countries participating for the first time in a World Cup, featuring a total of 57 games across the US and West Indies, before the final on June 29 at Barbados. And the original dream of the then ICC administrators in 2007 when they first conceived a short-format World Cup that would help to popularise cricket in different countries including the US, seems to be finally fructifying.

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And it looks all set for many ups and downs and an absolute rollercoaster of emotions along the way, before a new T20 world champion is crowned.

The excitement is definitely not over yet!

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author. The author is a veteran Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force, who has played Ranji Trophy for Services.

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