The vibes at the moment are similar to that ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The tournament was hosted in the Indian subcontinent and for the conditions it presented, India had the strongest side. The side lived up to the hype as MS Dhoni’s men clinched the trophy after beating Sri Lanka in the final at Mumbai. By the time, ICC World T20 2016 ends, Dhoni may have had added another silverware to his illustrious cabinet. ICC World T20 2016, New Zealand overview: Minus Brendon McCullum, Black Caps aim for the first title

Not only India have struck form at the right time but also they have the strongest side when we take conditions into consideration. The Indian Premier League (IPL) experience that Indian players have is invaluable. In similar conditions in Bangladesh, during the 2014 edition, India were unstoppable and had an unbeaten run till the tournament final. It required an inspiring spell of death bowling from Lasith Malinga to stop India’s march to the coveted trophy.

Hosting the tournament for the first time, India have no apparent weaknesses. In fact, they wear a stronger look than never before.  In the matches building-up to the tournament, India have ensured that most from the core group of players have had decent outings. India enter the tournament as the No. 1 ranked T20I side. They have just won the Asia Cup T20 2016 and in fact won 10 of their last 11 T20Is.

Dhoni, in press conferences, has often spoken about the importance of having a settled side and that is what Team India seems to have found. When your best pace bowler Mohammed Shami struggles to find a spot in the XI, it is a ‘happy headache’ for the team. India have stuck to a settled XI. In Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, the top looks settled. The fulcrum of the batting is in Virat Kohli at No. 3. In Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, the middle-order looks settled. If Kohli and Rohit come on their own, there is no stopping India.

Hardik Pandya is the answer to Dhoni’s constant lookout for a genuine pace bowling all-rounder. The Baroda lad can smack it hard with the willow and at the same time can effectively give four overs. And mind you, he consistently touches the 140 kph mark. Pandya’s emergence has changed the side’s fortunes, which in the past has relied heavily on part-timers to don the fifth bowler’s role.

Of course, the key to India’s bowling is Ravichandran Ashwin. In subcontinent conditions, Ashwin’s prowess in unmatched across formats and it is not that India are heavily reliant on the off-spinner. Ravindra Jadeja is more than a support bowler. Also, India have adequate back-up for the duo. The experienced Harbhajan Singh and rookie Pawan Negi are more than just slot fillers in the fifteen-member squad.

A major chunk of the credit for India’s rapid rise in T20Is goes to its pace battery comprising of Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra, and backed up by Pandya. It is quite fascinating to see a 22-year-old pairing the new ball with an almost 37-year-old warhorse, who made his India debut in 1999. Bumrah’s intelligence needs to be lauded as most often he has played with batsmen’s mind and thanks to his stint with Malinga in the IPL; the youngster has been incredible with his death bowling. Nehra has constantly given the side early wickets, in the powerplay. Then there is Shami in the squad who is coming after a prolong injury.

A strong team, home conditions and immense crowd support will all be contributing factors to India’s run in the tournament. If they achieve their potential, come April 3, the podium at Eden Gardens will belong to Team India.

Infographics by Suvajit Mustafi | Designed by Jyoi Desale
Infographics by Suvajit Mustafi | Designed by Jyoi Desale

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)