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Virat Kohli and the answer to Team India's questions
There is a major chance that India, winners of the inaugural Twenty World Cup in 2007, would do well this time in the latest edition of the World Twenty20 mela. For starters, there was no Virat Kohli then. There is Virat Kohli now. The 23-year-old has been a tremendous revelation in Indian cricket over the past couple of years. Men of the stature of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly feel that he is the best batsman for India across all the three formats right now. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that he is probably the best batsman of the tournament right now.
In the form of his life, Kohli is in the kind of touch where the bowlers would be crying out: somebody stop him! Quite clearly, much would depend on Kohli's blade if India is to give that Cup a real shake! If the opposition gets his scalp, they would think they have half won the game! Now, when was the last time you heard that about an Indian batsman? Probably when a certain Sachin Tendulkar was carrying the batting burden of the country virtually all alone in the '90s. Kohli, certainly, can be spoken about in the same breath now.
Going purely by form, Kohli is likely to receive best support in the batting order from Suresh Raina and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Raina is one of the most dangerous T20 batsmen in the world, while Dhoni continues to be a master of chases. Yuvraj Singh has just returned after surviving the battle of life, so excepting him to turn it on straight away would be too much, but there's no doubt that his all-round skills become more pronounced in these conditions.
India's big worry going into the championship is the form of its big guns - openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. Gambhir led his Indian Premier League team Kolkata Knight Riders to the title, but sadly, is woefully out of form. Sehwag is out of touch and probably not too fit too. In this context, the exclusion of the IPL's best batsman, Ajinkya Rahane, might just come back to haunt India. Rohit Sharma is not short of class, but low on confidence at the moment.
The bowling, as always, comes with a big question mark. Zaheer Khan looked sharp in the lone T20 that India played against New Zealand, but he has a habit of leaking runs in this format of the game. His new ball colleague Irfan Pathan is in fantastic form, and the better he bowls, the more confidence his batting would get, which means India would get their best all-rounder back! Laxmipathy Balaji brings good variety, and mixes it up nicely, but his lack of pace may matter more in the T20 World Cup than it did in the IPL, where he scripted his comeback. Sadly, the skipper doesn't seem to have much confidence in young seamer Ashok Dinda. The spin department looks fine with R Ashwin eager to secure his spot and Harbhajan Singh bidding to steal it! The third cog in the spin wheel, Piyush Chawla, could play the role of being the lucky charm - he has, after all, been part of both the World Cup winning sides in recent years.
The skipper's other worry, besides the opener's form and the iffy bowling, would be the fielding of the side. Manoj Tiwary is this team's best fielder, but he is unlikely to start in most games. Many in this side, Ashwin, for example, are slow movers who would allow the batsmen to sneak in that extra run. Still, India won the 50-over World Cup with poor fielders and average bowling, so that gives them hope! Sri Lanka, in any case, has always been the Indian team's happy hunting ground - they just beat the Lankans for the third straight time in an ODI series there.
Due to fatigue, MS Dhoni & Co experienced disaster in successive Twenty World Cups which came on the back of gruelling IPLs. The high of India triumphing with Dhoni helming a young team in the first World Cup is now five years behind us. With a better set of cards up his sleeve, and players largely fresh and raring to go after a while now, Captain Cool must be feeling like a gambler who might walk away with all the booty on the table, yet again.
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