India are under pressure to win their first global title since 2013 at the T20 World Cup in Australia but they must do so without injured pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah.
Rohit Sharma’s team open their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on 23 October in Melbourne in a hotly anticipated clash that could set the tone for their tournament.
Top-ranked India recently won T20I series at home against Australia and South Africa and have been the team to beat in one-on-one competitions.
Along with England and hosts and holders Australia, they are seen as favourites for the World Cup.
But India have not lifted a world title since the 2013 Champions Trophy and have struggled through international tournaments, failing to make the semis of last year’s World Cup and missing the semi-finals of the recent Asia Cup.
The pressure is on back home in the cricket-crazy nation and batting great Sunil Gavaskar is backing them to deliver and win the T20 World Cup for a second time, having claimed the inaugural title in 2007.
“It’s a fine team with an ideal blend of youth and experience and with a bit of luck they can go on to bring the cup home,” the former captain wrote in the Times of India.
There are concerns, however.
India’s late-innings ‘death’ bowling remains a worry after they conceded more than 200 runs in the final overs of their three T20I matches against South Africa on home turf.
Senior pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar has struggled in the absence of pace spearhead Bumrah, who was ruled out with a back injury. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also failed to make the squad, with a knee injury.
Standby seamers Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar are expected to replace Bumrah and join a pace brigade that includes Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
Head coach Rahul Dravid backed his bowlers to do well in Australia.
“We certainly have confidence in the boys. I mean, the kind of group that we will take to Australia, all of them have done well in the death as well,” Dravid said. “It’s just a question of getting us all together and hopefully executing in Australia.”
The team left for Perth on 6 October and will play two warm-up matches, against the hosts and New Zealand, before their tournament opener against Pakistan.
India are in Group 2 at the World Cup with Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and two other teams who will qualify from the first round.
Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Deepak Hooda will be India’s options for spin, which is set to play a key role on the Australian pitches.
“Guys need a lot more clarity in terms of what they want to achieve and it’s my job to make sure it happens,” said skipper Rohit.
“Lot of the guys haven’t been to Australia, which is why we wanted to go early. Play on some bouncy pitches in Perth and see what we can do there.”
India’s batting looks in fine shape after Virat Kohli’s return to form at last month’s Asia Cup, when he smashed his maiden T20I century.
Kohli seems to have found his mojo after an extended slump, also walloping an unbeaten 49 off 28 balls in the second T20I against the Proteas.
Suryakumar Yadav has also been in blazing form and the big-hitter amassed 119 runs at a strike rate of 195.08 to hammer the South African bowlers in the series.
Rohit, vice-captain KL Rahul, Pandya and Dinesh Karthik – in the team as a specialist finisher – have also been in ominous form.
© Agence France-Presse