Gloves Off

ICC World T20: Dhoni doesn't care for a 'favourite' Team India

One over can change the course of a match and one dropped catch can make a huge difference.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   13-03-2016
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The journey of the shortest format of cricket has been a fascinating one.

It seems like yesterday when Indian superstars were not keen on playing the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. But when MS Dhoni lifted the trophy, there was a sense of euphoria which swept the nation.

It is early days in the sixth edition of the ICC World T20 in India, but the fever is catching up. Pakistan, after all the needles suspense, landed in Kolkata on Saturday even as minnows Afghanistan, coached by Inzamam-ul-Haq, dumped Zimbabwe to make it to the tournament proper.

Given the smash-bang-thud format of T20 cricket, everything happens in the space of 40 overs. If nine years ago, this form of pyjama cricket and the sight of cross-batted swipes and fielders diving without fear to stop the ball shocked purists, today everything in T20 cricket has become accepted.

For sheer innovation, thrills and spills, this is one format which tests all the players on the field. One over can change the course of a match, and one dropped catch can make a huge difference in a razor-sharp contest.

In this edition of the World T20, the tag of favourites means nothing. Everyone is making India the favourites and MS Dhoni must be smiling at this. Here is a man who has been in the thick of it in these nine years like nobody else.

When the Indian team was getting whacked in the ODI series in Australia in January, critics were sharpening their knives. Dhoni won the T20 series Down Under, then beat the Sri Lankans at home and clinched the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

As one who has seen the crests and troughs, taken praise and criticism with the same smiling face, he knows the importance of the ICC World T20 at home.

This "favourite" tag is just not required as it is only going to add to the pressure. All cricket-playing countries have realised that the T20 format requires specialist players and today even England are aware of it.

On a macro scale, just look at the number of "World Cups" held till now.

In nine years, this will be the sixth edition even as the ICC runs the 50-over World Cup and Champions Trophy every four years.

Such has been the growing popularity of instant cricket, today almost every country has its own T20 league. The Indian Premier League leads the way for cricket and commerce to flourish like no other sport at home. And despite all the dirt and sleaze, the IPL continues to thrive with no dearth of megabucks.

Indeed, India has been the trendsetter and if leagues organised by countries like Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan are now in existence, it is because of the IPL.

Just imagine the scenario where a virtually unknown Pawan Negi gets Rs 8.5 crore at the IPL auction and yet does not have the skills for playing quality first-class cricket. It just goes to show T20 cricketers are a new breed by themselves and those who cannot adjust to the rigours of it are not there.

India has a unique combination of superstars like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and R Ashwin while oldies like Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra still barge their way into the squad by sheer weight of performance.

And when you think of a fast bowler like Jasprit Bumrah with a weird action, it's clear T20 cricket has a place for sheer performers.

The format is actually the simplest form of cricket. Agreed, there is room for strategy but when you have to do things fast and clinically, it revolves around simple basics.

As it were, people are complaining spin bowling is getting killed as the tweakers in T20 format are not "that talented" if one considers the skills required to play Test cricket.

The dilemma is more for the purists who believe Test cricket is the ultimate form of the game and the glory in it is unmatched. All that is going to change in the next four weeks as the World T20 starts throbbing.

To have the blue riband event in India could possibly prompt many changes.

Back to Dhoni, who told the media in Bangladesh last month that the thought of retirement has not yet crossed his mind. This is another chance for the successful captain to show how important he is to Indian cricket. After all, from the odd fan in the gullies to rock star Virat Kohli, each one is an MSD fan in his or her own way.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)


S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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