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India not out. Dhoni and boys can still win World T20 in style

Rajarshi Gupta
Rajarshi GuptaMar 16, 2016 | 18:06

India not out. Dhoni and boys can still win World T20 in style

So, India finally lost a T20 game.

After demolishing Australia, humiliating Sri Lanka, trumping Pakistan and putting Bangladesh in place (twice in their own den), India had looked invincible coming into the ICC World Twenty20. Eleven victories from 12 matches. That sort of number was intimidating for the others in the tournament.

New Zealand, who had to deal with Brendon McCullum's retirement, was thrust into the tournament opener against the hosts on one of the most notorious venues for visiting teams to the subcontinent. Nagpur is where South Africa were felled last November and it was expected to be New Zealand's burying ground.

Kill 'em with spin.

But that tactic backfired and how. India became victims of their own "conspiracy in a way". All hell broke loose after the shock defeat. Suddenly, India were not good enough to win this trophy anymore. Did India peak too early? Have they become too complacent? Are the others better prepared than we thought?

Hold your horses, peeps! India are still in with a chance and they are still favourites to win this tournament.

What happened in Nagpur last night was a nightmare, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. India's batsmen are no longer great players of spin and it was impossible to play any strokes on that rank turner they dished up at Jamtha again. Nagpur is a closed chapter now. New Zealand is a dangerous package and their spinners exploited the conditions beautifully.

India is now lined-up to play Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia. The equation is simple. They need to win all these games and win them big because the 47-run defeat has affected their net run rate drastically. A washout here and a defeat there could end India's chances. THAT would be heartbreaking.

But these are still early days and here are a few reasons why MS Dhoni could become the first captain to win the World T20 twice.

Masters of run-fests

No other team has mastered big run-fests like India have in recent years. Three of the five batsmen to slam double hundreds in ODIs are Indians. They know when to set the tempo and when to go for the kill on flat pitches. And India's batting line-up is ideally suited to exploit flat surfaces.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who looked awkward against the turning ball last night, will be in their elements in Kolkata, Bangalore and Mohali. These pitches will be as flat as they come. Eden Gardens and the Chidambram Stadium have produced some high-scoring classics lately. Think of the carnage Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni will be able to cause.

Besides, the bowling attack knows how to operate on surfaces that do not offer sharp turn or movement. Jasprit Bumrah's yorkers and Ravindra Jadeja's darts would not be easy to put away.

MS Dhoni, the trophy collector

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has come a long way since his days as a ticket collector. He now collects ICC trophies for a hobby. The ICC World Twenty20 triumph in 2007 was followed by success in the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy. India came close in the 2014 World T20 but Yuvraj's inability to lift the ante at a crucial juncture allowed Sri Lanka to restrict India in the final at Dhaka.

How many other skippers can boast of Dhoni's tactical brilliance in the T20 format? If the pacers are leaking runs, he employs the spinners to control the damage, if the spinners have a bad day, he somehow finds a way to get the part-timers to roll their arms over.

T20 cricket is Dhoni's speciality. He helped mould Chennai Super Kings into a formidable unit and he has followed the same formula for India. Aggressive batsmen at the top, consolidators in the middle and Dhoni to finish it off at the end. What more could a team ask for?

An aside for fans

When you are down and out, believe in Dhoni's shrewd cricketing mind. This is India and this is T20 cricket. He will find a way out to dig the team out of the tightest spots.

Virat Kohli, the one-man army

India's best batsman has had a sensational run so far this year. He was in top form against Australia, smashing 199 runs in the three-match series, took a break against Sri Lanka and returned to play a couple of classics in the Asia Cup, with the 49 against Pakistan being the most noticeable. Yes, the team relies heavily on him but that's the burden men like Kohli have learned to live with, like Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis and Inzamam before him.

Home is where the heart is

It might sound like a cliché but think about it. A resounding defeat in the opening match of an ICC tournament. There is rarely anything more depressing than that for a team that has been touted as favourites for months. But India can take solace from home conditions, home crowds and a massive support even in the wake of an unexpected defeat.

India's next match is at the Eden Gardens where about 70,000 fans will cheer for the hosts. Ask any international player: that kind of support after a defeat is like a balm. A billion people still believe in Dhoni's men. A billion prayers are with them. Home matches mean plenty of pressure but they also mean much-needed support and assurance.

India are wounded tigers

The New Zealand defeat has hurt India's pride. Few expected them to lose and no one expected them to lose so badly. The stinging criticism from Dhoni should do the Indian batting stars a world of good. Yes, it was a difficult wicket to bat on but some of the shots played were rank poor.

Rohit Sharma did not need to do anything silly after losing Dhawan early, but he did. Raina and Yuvraj looked listless and Dhoni ran out of partners. With the stakes high in the coming few days, these batsmen will pull up their socks and rally behind Kohli, who hates losing.

India will come back hard and fire on all cylinders against Pakistan this weekend. It will be an ideal platform to remind the world that India are still top guns in this tournament, where fortunes fluctuate sharply everyday.

Last updated: March 16, 2016 | 18:29
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