The big question among Indian cricket fans ahead of every ICC tournament over the last few years has been – will the Men in Blue win the World Cup this time? Almost every time Team India go into a World Cup as one of the favourites. In the build-up to most ICC events, they display amazing form in bilateral events. However, come the major event, they falter. Since lifting the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, India have lost in the 2014 T20 World Cup final and the 2016 T20 World Cup semi-final. Last year, they fared even worse, getting knocked out ahead of the semi-finals. Speaking of 50-over events, India have been eliminated in the semi-final in the last two editions in 2015 and 2019.
The Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri captain-coach duo were in charge of India in recent ICC World Cup disappointments. There has been a change in personnel at top following India’s disastrous exit from the T20 World Cup last year. Rohit Sharma has taken over as captain while Rahul Dravid is performing the duties of head coach. Since the Indian captain is already 35, as a duo Rohit and Rahul will possibly get two shots at winning an ICC title. The first is of course the T20 World Cup, which will be held in Australia in October-November this year. The second is the 50-over World Cup, which will be held in India in 2023. The big question though remains – can the duo lead India to that elusive World Cup glory?
Aggressive mindset, form players key for T20 World Cup
Speaking of the T20 World Cup first, the Men in Blue have displayed amazing form since their exit from the ICC event in the UAE last year. They had been on a record-equaling 12-match winning streak, which ended with a loss to South Africa during the home series. Rohit missed the series against the Proteas as he was rested. His presence as a leader has made a major impact on the team’s fortunes. His ability to get the best out of players and his sharp tactical acumen have been one of the major contributing factors in the T20I side’s renaissance.
Two things, however, could determine India’s fortunes at the T20 World Cup Down Under later in the year – their newly-adopted aggressive mantra and the form of their main players. Clearly, during the last T20 World Cup, India struggled because they seemed to lack the edge that other teams had owing to that extra-positive approach to the 20-over version. Under the Rohit-Rahul combine, Team India has made a conscious effort to up the ante, especially when it comes to their batting. The results have been evident, with home series wins over the Kiwis and the West Indies followed by an impressive triumph in England recently.
At the same time, India must make sure that they back the philosophy to the hilt heading into the T20 World Cup even if they suffer a few setbacks along the way. Also, India will need their big names to stand up and deliver on the grand stage. With all due credit to his captaincy, Rohit has been a major disappointment with the bat since taking over as leader. There is a major question mark over the form of Virat Kohli. And while Shreyas Iyer did well in West Indies, his short-ball woes could come to the fore in Australia.
India need to decide approach for 50-over World Cup
Shifting the focus to the 50-over version, India recently blanked West Indies 3-0. However, under stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan, they adopted a rather traditional approach towards the format. India need to decide what kind of methodology it will apply when it comes to the ODIs. Yes, the one-day World Cup is still some distance away. However, India need to start building a squad and philosophy for the same simultaneously. They cannot leave it too late, something which has cost them in the past.
Rohit and Rahul have been highly impressive as captain and coach. But so were Kohli and Shastri. Yet, they could not guide India to ICC titles. The current skipper-coach combination will have to ensure they pick the right players, who have the right attitude – to deliver when the right time comes.