Captains ahead of 2022 T20 World Cup. Credit: BCCI

Guwahati: Over the past 15 years, T20 cricket has evolved many fold. The numerous T20 leagues globally has left the format decoded threadbare. The format has moved beyond the cliché of bludgeoning past opponents and demands a bit of street-smartness to be successful.

From parachuting power-hitting specialists of baseball teams to preferring multi-dimensional players (or 3D players, as popularized by a former India chief selector) and death-over specialists, the new norms dictate the format now.  

Well, what’s the first thing that comes to our mind when we speak of 2007?

Yes, Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes against England, S Sreesanth’s sensational catch at short fine leg in the electric final against Pakistan, the bowl-out against Pakistan in the league stage, but more than that a longhaired, unfancied Mahendra Singh Dhoni inspiring a billion Indians with a world title for the first time in more than two decades.

For the next 10 years, India approached with Dhoni’s approach of stifling the opposition in a cool and composed manner, meeting occasional success in the smallest format, before Virat Kohli came with his in-your-face aggressive approach till the flop show at the 2021 T20 World Cup. And like his IPL franchise, RCB, Kohli failed to lead the national team to a global title until Rohit Sharma was handed the mantle.

Fifteen years later, as India prepares for a second World title, starting with the game against arch-rivals Pakistan, albeit under a prediction of 90 percent chance of rain in Melbourne on Sunday, EastMojo takes a deep dive into the men-in-blue’s chances.

Current skipper Rohit Sharma, who was still finding his feet in international cricket during the 2007 campaign, has recently acknowledged, “It’s been a while since we won the World Cup. The motive and the whole thought process is to win the World Cup, but we know that we need to do a lot of things right to get there, so one step at a time for us.”

So what exactly went wrong in the previous edition of the global meet? Well, as always, hosts India went in as the favourites alongside a few other Asian sides, considering the tournament was played in the UAE – a destination which most Asian teams prefer as their alternative home venue.

Catastrophe hit India in their very first outing of the 2021 T20 WC, as the men-in-blue suffered a crushing 10-wicket loss to Pakistan. It was India’s first ever loss to the arch-rivals in a World Cup. There was more misery in store for the Indians as New Zealand inflicted another 8-wicket defeat, virtually closing the doors for India’s progress beyond the Super 12 stage.

India managed to win the next three games against Afghanistan and minnows Namibia, Scotland, before a regime change brought together the pair of captain Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid. The new combo has stressed on an aggressive approach while underlining the importance of a second line of defence.

Team India huddle during one of the practice sessions ahead of the T20 World Cup opener against Pakistan. Credit: BCCI

“We will continue to play like that. That is something we spoke quite clearly at the start of my (captaincy tenure) and everyone is comfortable with that. At the same time we know our second line of defence if we are in trouble. We spend a lot of time talking about these things. Guys are very clear if we are 10 for three how we need to bat. If we are 50 for no loss, how we need to bat. These have been discussed at length, it is just about executing now,” Rohit had said ahead of India’s brief home rubber against Australia, last month.

Dravid, who was at the helm in the NCA besides mentoring the Under-19 cricketers till then, already had the pulses of the new entrants in the side, and understood the growing demands of the format. On the other hand, Rohit’s chilled-out approach gave the license to the rookies to go all-out and express themselves.

As many as seven players made their debut since Rohit and Rahul joined forces, and among them left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, death bowling specialist Harshal Patel and all-rounder Deepak Hooda have made the World Cup side.

Also they have drafted Dinesh Karthik as the finisher back into the side, based on the 37-year-old keeper’s exploits in the 2022 IPL. Karthik’s inclusion means the team will miss the power-hitting of Rishabh Pant, who is blessed with a natural ability to clear the outfield at will. However, in T20Is, Pant still looks a work in progress and as things stand, Karthik may be preferred over the southpaw for the first couple of games.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah’s injuries have opened the doors for Axar Patel and Mohammed Shami. While Shami has given a teaser of his abilities with a three-wicket burst in the warm-up fixture against the hosts, Axar will look to cash on the golden opportunity.

While Axar’s bowling abilities have been well-tested, his batting is yet to match that of Jadeja’s batting prowess, and in that scenario, Hardik Pandya will need to shoulder most of the lower middle order responsibility.

As the teams walk out at the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground for the blockbuster clash on Sunday, Rohit Sharma will surely look to take a leaf out of the victorious 2007 T20 World Cup campaign, and start afresh.

Afterall, the basics of the game stays the same irrespective of the format and who better than “The Wall” knows it better!

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