It is ironic that the country with the most lucrative T20 tournament in the world, India, have played only five T20 internationals since the last World T20 in 2012. Four of those were played towards the end of that year and only one in 2013, in contrast to other teams like England and West Indies that have already played three-match T20 series in the build-up to the upcoming World T20 in Bangladesh. Despite the lack of practice in this format, India captain MS Dhoni was confident that the experience gained by the players in the IPL was sufficient for them to compete as a unit.
“Most of the teams, if you see, don’t play a lot of T20s,” Dhoni said in Dhaka in his first press conference ahead of the tournament. “Especially with the kind of schedule we have, I don’t think we’ll be able to accommodate more than one or two T20s [per series]. That is something that I will always face.
“At the same time, we have got the IPL where we have played with the best players and the standard there is as high as international standards so that really amounts to the experience we need.”
Since winning the inaugural World T20 in 2007, India have failed to make the semi-finals in each of the next three editions. In 2012, despite losing just one out their five games, India failed to make the final four because they fell short on the net run rate. Dhoni said their experience was an example of how no team can afford to lose even a single game, for it could affect their chances of qualifying. India are placed in a tough group, with Pakistan, Australia and West Indies.
“Our group is quite a competitive one so all the matches will be important,” Dhoni said. “Especially when you consider our performance in the last edition of the World T20 where we exited from the tournament after losing just one game. We have a couple of warm-up games before our first game so we’ll be looking towards using those warm-ups to sort out our team’s balance.”
India’s performances away from home have slipped since beating Zimbabwe 5-0 last year. India failed to win a single game on their tours of South Africa and New Zealand and failed to make the final of the Asia Cup that concluded recently in Bangladesh. Dhoni admitted that their performances in the away Tests and ODIs were below par, but was confident that none of it would affect their showing in the upcoming T20s.
“I think we have had to endure tough times recently but even in these situations it’s not like we hadn’t played good cricket,” he said. “If you look at our Test performances away from home since 2011 you will see that our displays haven’t been up to the mark. In the last two away series [against South Africa and New Zealand] we have shown that we have talent though we lost both the series. So I think we are on the way up, and that’s where you want to be. There is always pressure.”
Dhoni missed the Asia Cup due to a side strain and he said the short break after the hectic traveling did him good. “For me, the positive side was to get a bit of rest. I was at home with no work. It was something that I would appreciate. You don’t want to get injured and miss a series. So overall, a good 10-12 days off.”