Even if they weren’t in red-hot form and playing at home, India would still have been clear favourites for the World T20 just by the sheer presence of World Cup-winners in the squad.
From a captain who has the led the team to the two world titles — first in the format, second on home soil — to individuals with first-hand experience of being on top in 2007 and 2011, India have the skills and know-how to become the first host nation to win the event.
Here’s a look at past champions in the squad:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
It was the inaugural World T20 in 2007 which gave Mahendra Singh Dhoni the ‘Captain Cool’ moniker. He followed it with the 50-over title in 2011 and has since become the first skipper to lead his team to five major trophies, the most recent of which came with the Asia Cup on Sunday. The World T20 may or may not be his last major tournament, but the successful Asia Cup campaign proves Dhoni remains an efficient man-manager and finisher.
A veteran of eight major tournaments and responsible for most of India’s highlights at the stage, Yuvraj has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows from close quarters. While it’s the heroics in 2007 and 2011 triumphs which have seen him return to the team, Yuvraj would do good to improve his record in the finals (the choke in 2014 World T20 final still fresh in the minds.) Now back on home soil, Yuvraj would look to set the record straight.
Much like the aforementioned two, Harbhajan Singh would be targetting a hat-trick of World Cups. One of India’s most successful spinners, Bhajji will find it difficult to dislodge Ravichandran Ashwin in the current scheme of things, and has been resorted to a mentoring role. Nine wickets from five Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy T20s however prove the 35-year-old hasn’t slowed down and would be raring to go.
Ashwin, who played only two matches in India’s 2011 triumph, has transformed into Dhoni’s go-to man. His ability to provide breakthroughs with the new ball and restrict the run flow makes him the quintessential T20 spinner. And with a proven track record (took the second-most wickets in the 2014 edition) Ashwin will once again be key for the hosts.
A fringe player circa 2007, Rohit made the most of the three chances in the inaugural World T20 with a crucial fifty against hosts South Africa and a 16-ball 30 in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan. Cut to 2016 and all eyes will be on the devastating opener, who is the second-highest run-scorer in T20Is since 2014.
India’s batting mainstay knows a thing or two about winning World Cups. After leading the U-19 team to glory in 2008, Kohli made his World Cup debut with a century in the 2011 opener and scored a crucial 35 in the final. Having only grown as a batsman since then, Kohli’s consistency and ability to change his game on the fly could see him become the tournament’s highest scorer for the second straight edition.
The understated member in a team full of flamboyant characters, it is easy for Raina and his contributions to slip under the radar. The southpaw played crucial knocks in the latter half of the 2011 World Cup and while he has been short of runs recently, Twenty20 is where Raina feels at home. The first Indian batsman to score a century in the format, he could also take heart from his exploits in the Indian Premier League, where he is the highest scorer.
This tale’s a rollercoaster. After making his debut 17 years ago, Nehra got his first 5-wicket haul in that fiery spell of 6/23 against England in the 2003 World Cup. Inconsistency and injuries saw him fall out of favour before making a slow return to play the 2011 tournament. He was the most expensive bowler in the defeat against South Africa and the most economical in the win over Pakistan in the subsequent game, his last ODI.
Now 36, Nehra has found refuge in the shortest format. Since returning to the team in January, the wily pacer has been efficient and looks set for another interesting chapter.