It’s difficult to judge a team’s form when the last game it played was five months ago. Generally, since the start of the Indian Premier League, India have turned up cold for the World Twenty20. If they show up in Bangladesh the same way, they will be doing so at their own risk.
A lot is at stake for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Despite the unstinting backing of the Indian board, there is no denying that the skipper is feeling the pressure. In fact, with the defeat column fast filling up, the event could be a lifeline, provided he can come up with a strong showing.
The situation is not new for Dhoni. It’s been a case of fluctuating fortunes for the last three years. Faced with tense moments, he has managed to stay afloat with a strong response to cover up for the low phases. A classic example was the 2013 Champions Trophy, when he led India to the title after the turmoil in the IPL, caused by the fixing and betting scandal.
Before that, the crushing defeats in England, Australia, at home to England, and the flop show at the World T20 at Sri Lanka, were wiped off with a resounding 4-0 win over Australia.
Time to strike form
The World T20, starting on Sunday, comes amid another poor run after defeats in South Africa and New Zealand. The shrewd operator that he is, Dhoni will see it as another opportunity. Apart from the ability to galvanise the unit into giving its best when up against the wall, Dhoni will have the advantage of the slow conditions suiting his men better.
The captain will be aware that anything short of winning the title will be seen as another failure, also because it is a format in which he carries the tag of the most destructive batsman.
Success here will not be an answer to his troubles but will give him a longer rope. It will not silence his critics, but will buy him time. The BCCI is reluctant to allow its team to play T20 internationals, but Dhoni’s overall record in the format is phenomenal. Already, he has attained legendary status in the IPL. The stamp of approval comes from none other than Ian Chappell. “Dhoni is a brilliant captain in the shorter versions of the game, and a master at timing his run to the finishing line as a middle-order batsman,” observed Chappell in his recent column in HT.
The 15-member India squad will warm up for the championship by playing practice games against Sri Lanka (Mar 17) and England (Mar 19). Given that he is coming back from an injury (side strain for which he skipped the Asia Cup), all eyes will naturally be on Dhoni.