12 September 2012 - 09:41pm IST
Irrespective of indicators of form, the conditions on the ground or what various other teams are doing, India’s passionate cricket fans expect their team to win whenever it enters a big tournament such as the ICC World Twenty20 2012.
Expectations, not necessarily always grounded in reality, are perpetually sky high, and this is something the Indian team has come to live with. For two reasons, the ICC World Twenty20 2012 in Sri Lanka will be watched ever more closely. For one, Indiais the holder of the ICC Cricket World Cup title, having won the 50-over competition in such spectacular fashion at home in 2011. No team has simultaneously held the two ICC titles. The second reason, more emotional than anything else, is the return of Yuvraj Singh.
A talismanic figure who was twice been player of the tournament in ICC Cricket World Cups – first at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2000 in Sri Lanka and then at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in India – Yuvraj’s battle with a rare form of germ-cell cancer, mediastinal seminoma, has been well-documented in the media.
His fans adore Yuvraj, who returned to national colours in a Twenty20 match against New Zealand, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni has stated more than once that he’s the engine-room of the limited-overs teams. Aside from his clean striking – Stuart Broad will not easily forget being carted for six sixes in an over at Kingsmead, Durban during the ICC World Twenty20 2007 – and ability to control the tempo of an innings, Yuvraj’s left-arm spin has played a major role in limited-overs cricket.
But, there’s more to this Indian team than Yuvraj. For starters, it has experience of success in the competition, having won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 2007 in South Africa. In subsequent editions of the tournament, India could not replicate match-winning ways. It made the Super Eights at the ICC World Twenty20 2009 in England but failed to go through to the knockout stages. At the ICC World Twenty20 2010 in the West Indies, losses to Australia, West Indies and Sri Lanka resulted in a swift exit. Despite this lack of success in the last two events, Indian fans will hope for more, as the players are now vastly experienced in the shortest format of the game, having played in five editions of the Indian Premier League.
The core of the Indian team remains unchanged from the ICC World Twenty20 2010, with Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag set to open the batting. In the flashy world of Twenty20 cricket, Gambhir has often not received the kind of widespread recognition and accolades his team-mates have enjoyed, but he has been as consistent as is possible in the format. When Gambhir makes runs at the top of the order, the teams he plays for seldom fails, as the success of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the most recent edition of the IPL showed.
In the middle order, the freshest face is also the most promising, with Virat Kohli enjoying the kind of run in all formats that other players can only dream of. After marking his territory quite emphatically as the man for a chase in the 50-over game, Kohli has settled into the Test team, something that was crucial with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman having retired.
While there were few surprises in the team picked, eyebrows were raised over the inclusion of Piyush Chawla, who seems to flit into the Indian team just in time for an ICC Cricket World Cup, only to disappear back into obscurity soon after. Harbhajan Singh, who has just begun to return to wicket-taking ways with Essex in the County Championship, was also included, and Dhoni is sure to rely heavily on his experience.
“We looked at the conditions (in Sri Lanka) for the ICC World Twenty20 2012,” said Kris Srikkanth, chairman of the selection committee that picked the team. “We feel that we have picked a team that will win us the World Cup. We are very happy Yuvi (Yuvraj) has been declared fit. In ICC World Cup 2011, he was the Man of the Series. He is a crucial factor from India's point of view."