It is strange to consider that, prior to the beginning of the World T20, many people viewed Australia as potential challengers for the trophy, whilst India, fresh off the back of a torrid tour of New Zealand, were thought to perhaps be outside shots for the semi-final stage. As it is, India have won all four of their matches, and Australia have lost all three. How have India formed a winning team so suddenly?
Central to India’s success in the tournament has been the frugality and potency of their spin bowlers. While Ravindra Jadeja has admittedly struggled—he’s taken five wickets but leaked runs—Ravi Ashwin and Amit Mishra have tied batsmen in knots. The pair have taken 16 wickets between them and both have conceded less than six runs per over on average.
The pair have been deployed cannily by MS Dhoni, who has also instilled confidence in them by bowling the pair at key stages in the innings. The conditions also obviously suit the bowlers, but India have had greater success than most—they have not conceded more than 140 in any match, and their spin bowlers are chiefly to thank for that.
Underlying the success of the spin bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has a silent determinant in India’s four victories. Kumar has only taken three wickets but has conceded runs at a staggering 4.33 runs per over. When you consider he is bowling in the powerplay and at the death, that is a remarkable effort.
Indeed, India’s fast bowling was cited as one of the reasons they would struggle in the tournament with runs conceded at the beginning and back end of the innings being crucial. The spin bowlers have dominated India’s attack, however, so elsewhere little can be read into.
Mohammad Shami is the other main pacer, and he has struggled to make such an impact as Bhuvneshwar. In fact Shami can perhaps be identified as the main weak link of India’s side. His struggles have forced Dhoni to occasionally turn to the spin of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina who are not in the same class and have also struggled.
That’s the thing with T20; if one bowler struggles, plans can quickly unravel.
India’s batting has rotated around the duo of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma who have scored more than 300 runs between them. Kohli is arguably the most prolific, if not the most innovative (AB de Villiers probably takes that accolade) batsman in the world. While, on the other hand, Sharma appears to have turned a corner in the past 12 months and is now batting with responsibility in a global tournament.
Singh’s fifty against Australia was massively important for the balance of India’s team in that his return to form poses India with firepower down the order that they were perhaps otherwise lacking. Of course MS Dhoni offers such ability, but he too has been short of batting practice.
Singh is a player who has been pivotal in previous World Cup campaigns for India; most notably the 2011 World Cup when he won the Man of the Tournament, and here again he appears to be hitting form just at the right time.
There are still big concerns over India’s batting at the top of the order, with Shikhar Dhawan horribly out of form. But generally speaking, in conditions that favour spin bowling, India have one of the most complete teams in the tournament almost by accident.
They’ve been fortunate in that none of their opposition have really seemed to hit top gear, and as a result we haven’t seen India under real pressure, but you could argue that is as much because of India’s brilliance as the ineptitude of the opposition.
The second fast-bowler and the opening-bowler slots remain issues, but Singh’s return to form completes this Indian team as a side who have a real chance of winning the World T20.