An unexpected title-triumph in its inaugural edition fifteen years ago and then a lengthy title drought.
That’s in short is India’s record in the shortest form of the game at the ICC level, although the country runs the most sought-after T20 League in the world, the Indian Premier League.
Now the team led by Rohit Sharma is aiming to end that anomaly as they plunge into a no-holds-barred battle against arch rivals Pakistan in their lung-opener in the ICC men’s T20 World Cup at the huge Melbourne Cricket Ground, to be packed to the rafters, here tomorrow.
The task is onerous as not only the dangerous Pakistan but also the likes of defending champions cum hosts Australia, former champions England, doughty customers New Zealand, and gritty South Africa, to name a few opponents, lie ahead.
The focus, for the time being, is on Pakistan who sent India to their defeat in the opening clash in the previous World T20 Cup last November, a loss that the latter could not take in their stride. That defeat in the UAE still rankles.
Rohit and his men would once again be tested by the excellent bowling attack of Pakistan which has been strengthened by the return from injury of their gangling left arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Afridi’s cheap dismissals with the swinging ball at top pace of openers Rohit and K L Rahul put India firmly on the back foot.
Their modest total was easily chased down by Pakistan who won by a massive ten-wicket margin.
Thereafter the two bitter rivals have faced each other twice, again in the UAE in the Asia Cup held in August-September.
On the first occasion India came out on top while in the subsequent latter phase it was Pakistan who turned the tables.
Significantly, on all three occasions the team that opted to chase after winning the toss won. Tomorrow the toss, thus, assumes a lot of significance and winning it will be crucial.
But there is a threat of rain too, as per the weather forecast. A truncated game could be tricky and Rohit put his thoughts if such a scenario emerges ahead of the game.
“You don’t really know what is going to happen tomorrow. We need to come here thinking that it’s a 40-over game. If the situation demands that it’s a shorter game, we will be ready for that as well,” Rohit said at the match eve presser.
“A lot of the guys have played such kinds of games before, and they know how to manage themselves in a situation like that. Luckily, we played one game in India against Australia which was an 8-over game,” he elaborated.
For India among the biggest plus points in the last few months has been the good form shown by former skipper Virat Kohli.
The team, without key players Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah because of injuries, has a crack batting order which, if it clicks full time, could put the game away from Pakistan whose major strength is their bowling, especially the pace attack.
A strong batting line-up consisting of Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya is India’s trump card.
Mohammed Shami has been recalled into the squad after Bumrah was ruled out and brings in the necessary experience in the pace combine along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh could trouble the Pakistani batsmen with his angles of attack and ability to bowl in the block hole at good speed.
It will be interesting to see which two spinners from among Yuzurvendra Chahal, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin are preferred to play against the Babar Azam-led Pakistan.
India have made it to the semi-finals on four occasions in eight editions. They failed to do so in the previous edition and have a golden opportunity to get into the last four this time, which is their primary task.