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22 February 2024

India underline credentials as World T20 favourites

By Reuters

Twenty20 series wins over Australia and Sri Lanka have given top-ranked India plenty of cause for optimism as they launch their bid for a second world crown in the sport's shortest format on home soil next month.

Champions in the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 in 2007, India blanked hosts Australia 3-0 at the start of the year before returning home to rally for a 2-1 win over Sri Lanka.

The three-match series started with a surprise defeat on a seamer-friendly surface in Pune but India were spared the usual outpouring of discontent that follows any cricketing loss with convincing wins in the remaining two matches.

A green-tinged pitch like the one witnessed in Pune is unlikely to seen during the March 8-April 3 event and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has already identified his preferred 11 a month before the hosts open their campaign against New Zealand.

"We are always a top contender when it comes to shorter formats," Dhoni said after India beat Sri Lanka by nine wickets in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.

"Also, with the World Cup to be held in India, we know the spinners will come into the equation. It gives us the added benefit.

"Added to that is the exposure of having played the IPL (T20 tournament) over here. Out of the eight seasons, we have played seven seasons in India.

"We have got a lot of players, especially ones who are part of the team, who have got very good experience of playing in India."

The return of batting mainstay Virat Kohli, rested for the Sri Lanka series, for Ajinkya Rahane is likely to be the only change to India's starting side for the upcoming Asia Cup T20 event in Bangladesh and the subsequent World Twenty20.

The strong form of India's top order has left the middle to lower batsmen with limited opportunities to impress, however, and while Dhoni would like to see that deficiency addressed, he realises it could be difficult to fulfil.

"Not everybody has had a chance to bat but we will keep facing this problem because our line-up is quite deep," Dhoni added.

"We will try to give chances to a few of the players who haven't batted so far. But usually those who are batting close to six, seven and eight will have to develop ways to play the big shots as soon as they go in anyway."

Dhoni, who led the side to that victory in 2007 and also the 50-over World Cup on home soil four years later, was more relaxed about his bowling options, saying the side had the right balance to tackle any conditions.