Title odds [4.10]
To reach the final [2.0]
To reach semi-final [1.13]
Captain Virat Kohli
Coach Ravi Shastri
Last two years win % 72
Win bat first % 65
Win bat second % 74
Batting average rank 1st
Batting strike rate rank 2nd
Bowling economy rank 2nd
Bowling strike rate rank 3rd
Top runscorer Rohit Sharma
Top wicket-taker 87 Kuldeep Yadav
Game changer Kuldeep Yadav
Ticking the boxes
When perusing the batting and bowling ranks listed above, it is hard not to recognise this India team as the best in the world, despite what the odds lists or ICC rankings say. They can do the lot.
Over the last few months many punters have been waking up to this fact with their price slowly contracting. Arguably the value has gone. But if this is to be a tournament where India and England slug it out, who would you rather be on?
The team which has consistently shown for two years that it is adept with bat or ball, mastering both disciplines? Or the one which has focused so much on becoming the greatest ODI batting team the world has ever seen that their bowling unit is mediocre at best? And the former is a bigger price than the latter.
When put like that (and we recognise the loaded nature of the question, by the way) India are tantalising. They have the top three runscorers in the world in the last two years in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
They have the top wicket-taker in the world, too, over the same study period. Kuldeep Yadav, a spinner of great discipline, skill and intelligence, averages a crazy two wickets per game. He is part of a balanced and threatening bowling attack, led by the expert death bowler Jasprit Bumrah. Mohammad Shami and Bhuv Kumar also have good numbers behind them. Oh, and there’s Yuz Chahal, too, who is fourth on that wicket-takers’ list.
It is notable that Bumrah and Shami were not available for India’s 2-1 defeat by England last year and Kumar played only once. They also have a final appearance in the 2017 Champions Trophy to their name so the notion that they will struggle in English conditions holds little water.
Is Kuldeep okay?
If India fail to make the final they will be criticised for foolishly endorsing an old boys’ club policy. Once you’re in, you’re in and all that. MS Dhoni should have been replaced by the exciting Rish Pant. Kedar Jadav was a crock and should have been replaced by the exciting Rish Pant. Rish Pant should have batted at No 4.
You can spot a theme. A chunk of a billion Indians are keen on the swashbuckling Pant. He has been seen as the answer to India’s problematic No 4 position. It’s not actually that big a problem. The truth is that Holy Trinity ahead of the No 4 are so darn good that whoever bats there looks ill-equipped by comparison.
Vijay Shankar is expected to get the nod. He’s a tidy player who can go long if he has to do. And at some stage he will have to. That’s when India will be tested most. If he performs to his capability India will go close. Still, might have been a good idea for him to consistently bat two down in all three in the surprising defeat by Australia at home.
The form of Kuldeep in the IPL is a concern. He looked to have suffered some sort of technical breakdown and Kolkata Knight Riders didn’t even bother picking him by the end. Keep an eye on him in the warm-ups and early group stages.
+ Brilliant batting
+ Brilliant bowling
+ Vast experience
– Kuldeep form a worry
– Too reliant on top three?
Openers Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan
Middle-order Virat Kohli, Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul
All-rounders Hardik Pandya, Ravi Jadeja, Jadav
Wicketkeepers MS Dhoni, Karthik,
Spinners Kuldeep Yadav, Yuz Chahal, Jadeja,
Pace bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Bhuv Kumar,
Probable XI Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, Shankar, Dhoni, Jadav, Pandya, Kuldeep, Chahal, Shami, Bumrah