India: Banking on its batting might

India enters the competition as the favourite. It should be able to go all the way.

The captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is the key man for India in many ways.   -  Getty Images

Virat Kohli... a match-winner, pure and simple.   -  Getty Images

India's Jasprit Bumrah celebrates with Hardik Pandya following the dismissal of Cameron Boyce of Australia in a Twenty20 International at Adelaide Oval. Bumrah, a lanky bowler of sharp pace and incisive yorkers, gives the Indian attack the cutting edge.   -  Getty Images

India has the firepower to triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 Championship if the conditions do not include seaming tracks. Considering the host’s matches are going to be played either on flat tracks or on sluggish surfaces favouring spinners, M. S. Dhoni’s men have a wonderful opportunity of emerging victorious.

On batsman-friendly tracks, the Indian batsmen are destructive. They can, with a long line-up packed with powerful hitters, put the total beyond the reach of the opposition or chase down daunting targets. The same line-up can be extremely vulnerable on pitches with seam movement and bounce, as one saw recently in Pune when India succumbed to a second string Sri Lankan side.

India, though, has been largely having its way in recent times. Even on the tour of Australia this year, the tracks for the three-match Twenty20 series were so flat that it was difficult to comprehend that the games were being held down under.

But even on tracks excessively favouring batsmen, a side requires bowling to see it through tough games and it is here that several pieces have fallen in place for the Indian team.

The emergence of Jasprit Bumrah, a lanky bowler of sharp pace and incisive yorkers, has given the Indian attack the cutting edge at the death. For long, Indian pacemen were unable to deliver well-directed yorkers when it mattered.

There is no better wicket-taking delivery in Twenty20 cricket. And Bumrah unleashes this ball with precision, sending down yorkers that invariably crash into the stumps, strike the batsman’s toe or the base of the bat.

With his quick-arm action, Bumrah is hard to pick too, with the batsmen often struggling to zero in on the exact release point. Since an effective yorker is a delivery of varying air-speeds and accuracy, it does not depend on the nature of the pitch. Bumrah gets the new ball to nip around as well, both in the air and off the seam. He will be critical to India’s plans.

With Bumrah, India will have the left-armer Ashish Nehra. The wily Nehra may be getting on in years but is bowling with control and craft, swinging the new ball and bowling yorkers with the old.

Bowlers win matches, in any form of the game, and in Ravichandran Ashwin India has a game-changer. The off-spinner with a bag of tricks can contain and strike in the early power-play overs, in the middle, or at the death with changes in trajectory and length, spinning the ball into the batsman or taking it away and harnessing the angles.

On pitches where the ball grips, Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin can be dangerous. He spins it away from the right-hander and gets the ball to straighten. Ashwin and Jadeja can choke the batsmen, stem the flow of runs and create the sort of stress that so often produces wickets.

Hardik Pandya’s brisk medium pace, Yuvraj Singh’s left-arm spin and Suresh Raina’s off-spin can be handy too.

It remains to be seen if India, with confidence in specialist batsmen, opts for an additional spinner in either the experienced Harbhajan Singh or Pawan Negi. Both are telling strikers of the ball down the order as well.

Of course, batting is India’s strongest flank. And this side, on the sort of pitches likely to be used, can so quickly take the match away from the opposition. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Raina, skipper Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh are all destructive batsmen who can lift run-rates and dent bowlers’ ego. Down the order, the side has some exceptional hitters in Pandya and Jadeja. The Indian batting line-up is, under these conditions, both dynamic and flexible.

And the Indian fielding, with Kohli, Rohit, Raina, Jadeja and Yuvraj on the prowl, should be able to lift the bowling.

India enters the competition as the favourite. It should be able to go all the way.

The team:

M. S. Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Pawan Negi, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Harbhajan Singh.

Players with punch

M. S. Dhoni: When India bucked the odds to lift the trophy in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, Dhoni’s captaincy, street smart and instinctive, played a huge role in the triumph. Those were the early days of Twenty20 cricket and the competition, progressively, has evolved to become tougher. In the subsequent editions of this marquee Twenty20 event, India has drawn a blank. Dhoni, however, is still around, seeking one more shot at glory. He has his finger on the pulse of the game in the shorter formats, rings in bowling and fielding changes that alter the course of matches. With the willow, he can rotate the strike, hold the innings together or launch into the big hits. The captain is the key man for India in many ways.

Virat Kohli: This brilliant batsman adds enormous value to Indian batting. He is so dangerous for the opposition since he can dictate the course of an innings with shots round the wicket. Kohli can bat through the innings, often dominating the bowling and closing all avenues for the bowling side. The blend of solidity and enterprise that his batting brings to the side shuts one end up even as runs keeps coming at a healthy rate. A match-winner, pure and simple.