India embark on title quest

Dhonis champs of 2007 take on greenhorns Afghanistan today

India embark on title quest

 Yuvraj Singh will have to be his brilliant best if Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India are to emulate their triumphant run of 2007. AP

Three years down the line in the very same land, India square up against another sub-continental team, Afghanistan, in their first clash, in Group C, of the World T20 on Saturday.

While a repeat of the events of 2007 appears highly inconceivable, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys will not be taking the game’s newest entrants lightly. A ruthless performance will send a strong signal to the rest of the contenders.

Back in the Caribbean after six weeks of Indian Premier League action, the inaugural champions have a record to set right here. Dhoni’s men will not only be looking to make up for their disappointing show in the previous edition in England, but they know a victorious campaign will go a long way in redeeming the humiliating loss in 2007.   

Unlike other countries, India didn’t play any warm-up match but they can ill afford to take it as one against Afghanistan. It’s a funny format and one has to remain focused through the length of the game as Australia, who were stunned by Zimbabwe in a warm-up game, would vouch for.   

It’s not that the Indians are short on match practice, but there is some fear that the team hasn’t spent enough time together and that it might have a bearing on their collective effort. The IPL final was on April 25 and India play their first match exactly five days after that, which means they could have no more than two practice sessions before kicking off their campaign.

No bonding problems

But then, is it really a matter of concern? Barring the likes of R Vinay Kumar and to an extent Murali Vijay, who replaced an injured Virender Sehwag at the last minute, the rest of the squad has been together for some time now and as such should have little problem in gelling as a team.

There is also talk of fatigue. No doubt, IPL III was intense and hectic both physically and mentally and it will take require a lot for the players to maintain the same intensity in the World T20, but if they can do it for their franchises, they can most certainly do it for the country.

Coming straight off IPL II in South Africa, Indians seemed lacking in that quotient on the field. While an alleged cold war between Sehwag and Dhoni generated unwanted attention, their performance in the middle was nothing to shout home about. Whether they will be better off for their experience in the IPL this time, we will have to wait and watch and the clash against Afghanistan could just be the precursor to it.

If one were to go by the performances in the IPL, almost all players are in fine fettle. While Suresh Raina has been in pristine touch, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Vijay and Dhoni came out with their reputations either intact or enhanced. Yusuf Pathan didn’t have much to show apart from his 37-ball 100, but Yuvraj Singh’s form is the one that is causing maximum concern.

The Punjab batsman has admitted that he is short on confidence and the Afghanistan match is as good a chance as the left-hander can get to regain some. On the bowling front, only Praveen Kumar has been a bit off-colour while the rest have had a good run.       

Afghanistan, who have two wins in the warm-up matches, make for interesting opposition. They are fresh and fearless, and hopefully they will make the contest interesting.

Teams (from):

Afghanistan: Nawroz Mangal (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Mirwais Ashraf, Rais Ahmadzai, Dawlat Ahmadzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shinwari, Noor Ali, Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpoor Zadran, Shabir Noori, Saeed Nasrat, Shafiqullah Shafaq.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, R Vinay Kumar, Dinesh Kaarthick, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla.

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