After a gruelling Indian T20 League, the Indian cricket team should go in to the 2019 edition of the World Cup as one of the favourites considering the amount of quality cricket played in the past two months. A relatively ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ captain at the largest stage, Virat Kohli will have the experienced MS Dhoni by his side but India will have to play the perfect team game.
Leading India for the first time in a World Cup, Virat Kohli pressed home the importance of intensity and focus in a campaign such as this at his pre-departure press conference in Mumbai on 21st May, and confirmed an unchanged 15-man squad from the preliminary troupe that had been picked earlier. That means Kedar Jadhav, whose shoulder injury during the Indian T20 League was a matter of concern, has been passed fit to play.
Kohli has played in two 50-over World Cups before this, his first being during India’s victorious campaign in 2011, and stressed on how this World Cup is going to be different to the others he’s played in. Putting the spotlight on the revised format this year, which will see all the ten teams go against each other in a round-robin format, Kohli termed the upcoming edition as the “most challenging” out of the ones he’s seen.
Before the action begins, Team India play two official warm-up games that gives them the opportunity to climatise with the playing conditions in England and also a chance to fine-tune their playing XI. These matches are different in the sense that the teams are free to play all 15 of their squad to experiment with their lineups and test players for fitness issues. Both games are at 03.00pm and will be telecast on Star Sports and streamed live on Hotstar.
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (WK), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami.
While form on a given day will be the biggest factor that will influence a result, certain trends can be inferred depending on past performances and records. Unlike the T20 format where cricket grammar takes a backseat, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 will see the classic players thrive as the longer format demands both application and temperament.
India’s strengths and weaknesses
Virat Kohli (c) – Led by the mercurial Virat Kohli and supported in the middle by the ageless M.S. Dhoni, one of the best finishers.
Strength: A strong top order in batting and a bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, one of the best ‘death’ bowlers in limited overs cricket. Two wrist spinners add teeth to their bowling.
Weakness: Over-reliance on the top three batsmen and an untested number 4.
India’s squad was announced at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Monday (April 15th) with Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant not being included while Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja found places. The team will be captained by Virat Kohli while Rohit Sharma will be his deputy. MS Dhoni is the first-choice wicketkeeper. Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini and Avesh Khan have been selected as the net bowlers helping the Indian cricket team during the World Cup. The four bowlers will travel to the UK with the rest of the team.
Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad said that Karthik will be the back-up wicketkeeper and was preferred over Pant due to his superior skill behind the stumps. Karthik, the oldest Indian player in terms of international debut (three months before Dhoni in September 2004), was also part of the Indian squad during its disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign but missed out on 2011 and the 2015 editions.
Kohli’s pre-Indian T20 League statement that the T20 tournament will have no effect on the selections proved to be prophetic as Pant’s 245 runs in the League fell short of Karthik’s 111 runs.
“It is definitely a case which we have debated at length. In unison, we felt either DK or Pant will only come into the playing eleven if Mahi is injured. So, at that juncture if it is a crucial match, a quarterfinal or a semifinal, keeping also matters,” Prasad told reporters after the announcement of the squad. “That is the only reason why we went ahead with DK otherwise Pant was almost there,” he added. Another notable inclusion in the 15-man squad is Tamil Nadu’s seam bowling all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who is expected to be used as a floater in the batting order, especially at number 4. Shankar, with his “three-dimensional qualities”, took the slot which was speculated to go to Ambati Rayudu before his dip in form in the home series against Australia.
“We have been planning soon after the completion of the Champions Trophy (2017) for this. But let me tell you that in the last month or so, there have been a couple of players who have really cropped up like Vijay Shankar,” he said.
There are no surprises with the pace department with Jasprit Bumrah expected to lead an attack that can include all-rounder Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami apart from wrist spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
INDIA AT THE WORLD CUP
Since the inaugural Cricket World Cup in 1975, Indian cricket teams have experienced a see-saw ride at the quadrennial ODI championship.
From being overawed in 1975 and 1979 to staging one of global sport’s biggest upsets in 1983 when Kapil Dev‘s team beat two-time world champions West Indies at Lord’s; from losing semi-finals in 1996 and 2015 to crashing out of the first round in 2007; and from heartache in 2003 to exhilaration in 2011, the Indian cricket team has seen it all.
Here’s a recap of how past Indian teams have fared at the World Cup.
Prudential World Cup 1975
India were beaten in two of three matches, managing to defeat only East Africa (composed of players from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) for their first ODI win. It was in this World Cup that Sunil Gavaskar batted 174 balls to score 36 not out.
Prudential World Cup 1979
India floundered for the second World Cup running, losing all three matches which included a surprise loss to minnows Sri Lanka.
Prudential World Cup 1983
Kapil’s India arrived in England in 1983 without expectations. In two World Cups they had beaten only East Africa and lost to Sri Lanka, a team yet to be granted Test status. What unfolded was a magical and memorable journey that culminated in a historic day at Lord’s, one that put India on the map and forever changed the course of the 50-over game.
India, with just 17 wins in their first nine years of playing ODI cricket, were considered fortunate to just be at a World Cup final. What transpired under Kapil’s captaincy made cricket a global sport.
Reliance World Cup 1987
Now defending champions, India won five of seven matches in the 1987 World Cup which they co-hosted. One of them was the semi-final against England, the other to eventual winners Australia by one run.
The highlight of India’s World Cup campaign was the win over New Zealand, in which Gavaskar scored his only ODI century and Chetan Sharma took the first tournament hat-trick.
Benson & Hedges World Cup 1992
A poor World Cup in Australia and New Zealand for Mohammad Azharuddin‘s Indian team, who won just two of eight matches. A humdinger against Australia saw India fall agonisingly close, but giving their fans plenty to cheer about was victory over Pakistan at the SCG.
Wills World Cup 1996
Co-hosts again, Azharuddin’s Indian team lost to Australia and Sri Lanka in the league stage, rallied to make the quarter-finals, beat Pakistan in another Indo-Pak epic, but came undone against Sri Lanka in a crowd-marred semi-final.
ICC World Cup 1999
A shaky start to the World Cup in England meant that India were always playing catch-up. Defeats to South Africa and then Zimbabwe were followed by their first win, over Kenya, in which Sachin Tendulkar hit a memorable hundred after his father’s death.
Then came a run-fest at Taunton, in which Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid re-wrote the record books, and victory over hosts England. But losing to Australia and New Zealand dashed India’s chances of going further.
ICC World Cup 2003
Now captained by Ganguly, the Indian team’s campaign, barring the final, was the stuff of dreams. Having lost to Australia early on, India strung together a memorable run of 10 wins from 12 matches until they ran into Ricky Ponting’s team again.
The fast bowling was overall very efficient and the batsmen lived up to expectations. Their win over Pakistan was one for the ages and extended their dominance over their geographical neighbours to a fourth World Cup. In short, India were too good for everyone bar Australia.
Sachin Tendulkar swept the Man-of-the-Series prize for his 673 runs in 11 matches.
ICC World Cup 2007
India promised much in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, but losing to Bangladesh at Port of Spain in their opening match left them stunned.
Needing to win their next two matches to stay alive, Dravid’s team smashed minnows Bermuda and then lost to Sri Lanka to crash out.
ICC World Cup 2011
India came into the World Cup billed as favourites and duly lived up to those expectations, though their captain MS Dhoni admitted after it was over that the entire team had been twisted into knots of anxiety due to the pressure.
Dhoni’s team beat Bangladesh, tied with England, beat Ireland and Netherlands, lost to South Africa and beat West Indies to enter the knockouts.
In the quarter-finals, India overcame defending champions Australia to set up a tantalising semi-final in Mohali. There, they stifled Pakistan’s challenge to set up an all-Asia final in Mumbai. The grand finale, played out in front of a spanking new Wankhede Stadium with politicians and Bollywood’s glitterati in attendance, saw India beat Sri Lanka to lift the World Cup trophy after a 28-year gap.
ICC World Cup 2015
Dhoni’s team entered the 2015 World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand in the middle or poor form but transformed themselves, thanks largely to the fast bowlers. Seven wins in a row took India into the knock-outs, where they lost to eventual winners Australia in the SCG semi-final.
INDIAN RECORDS AT THE WORLD
• Sachin Tendulkar is India’s all-time leading run-getter of World Cups, amassing 2278 runs in his 45 appearances. He is followed by Sourav Ganguly (1006) and Rahul Dravid (860)
• Tendulkar holds a few other India batting records at the tournament – that of most hundreds (six), sixes (27), fours (241), fifties (15) and most runs in a single edition (673 in 2003)
• Ganguly holds the record for India’s highest score in a World Cup, when he hit 183* against Sri Lanka in 1999
• It was during this match at Taunton that Ganguly and Dravid put on a then-record ODI partnership of 318 for the second wicket, which still stands as India’s best at any World Cup
• Sunil Gavaskar has the highest average of any Indian batsman at a single World Cup. He averaged 113 in 1975, from three matches, courtesy two not outs
• Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath are India’s joint leading wicket-taker at the World Cup, with 44 each. Zaheer’s 44 came from 23 matches, Srinath’s from 34
• Of Zaheer’s 44 wickets, 21 came during the 2011 World Cup which is the most by an Indian bowler in any tournament. Zaheer matched Roger Binny’s record of 18 – taken in 1983 – during India’s run to the final of the 2003 World Cup and in 2011 made the record his own as India won the title
• Ashish Nehra holds the best figures by an Indian at any World Cup – 6/23 versus England at Kingsmead in 2003
• The other Indian bowlers to claim five-wicket hauls at the tournament are Venkatesh Prasad (1999), Robin Singh (1999), Yuvraj Singh (2011) and Kapil Dev (1983)
• India’s most potent bowler at the World Cup is Umesh Yadav, who in 2015 took 18 wickets at a strike-rate of 21.4
• With a minimum cut-off of 10 matches played, the Indian bowler with the best economy rate at the World Cup is Madan Lal (3.66)
• MS Dhoni, who led India in the 2011 and 2015 World Cup, is the country’s most successful wicketkeeper with 32 dismissals. Dhoni has held 27 catches and effected five stumpings at the tournament
• For non-wicketkeepers, Anil Kumble has held the most catches -14
• India’s overall World Cup record is 46 wins, 27 losses, one tie and one no-result from a total of 75 games
• As a side, India’s biggest World Cup win came over Bermuda in 2007 when they beat them by 257 runs
This year’s all-play-all format was used only once in the 44-year World Cup history – in 1992 in Australia-New Zealand. Everyone has welcomed it and teams will have to relentlessly be the best to beat the best and come up trumps.
All the Indian WC-bound players are in touch with the game and remained fighting fit through the Indian T20 League. The 23-day gap between the League final (May 12th) and the first World Cup match, on June 5th, against South Africa, is crucial too. Besides being relentlessly aggressive and resourceful, Kohli’s India may quietly be pursuing that slither of alchemy that drives teams onwards in a championship—a collective turnaround, or a stellar performance that ignites inspiration. That and a fortuitous touch that transforms Indian teams into an all-winning, well-lubricated juggernaut.
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