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Title India's to lose

Three key Indian players show off the new team outfit (from left) Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.

India start the tournament as one of the favourites to go all the way to lifting the coveted winners’ trophy.

Notwithstanding that the competition is being played in conditions where they will feel at home, their well-rounded side is replete with quality players whose skills in this format have been honed in their domestic Indian Premier League competition.

India’s batting is their strength with Virender Sehwag at the top of the order capable of wreaking the type of havoc that can quickly take the game away from any opponent. In sub-continent conditions he could prove a nightmare for opposition bowlers.

But India’s firepower extends far beyond Sehwag. Captain MS Dhoni, one of the few leaders to captain his national team across all three formats of the game, is an equal threat with the bat in the lower order. His astute captaincy will also be vital in this format where leadership slips in pressure situations prove mostly fatal.

However, it is Virat Kohli, arguably the best young batsman in world cricket, who should provide India with the greatest spark in the middle order. Over the past year he has been India’s most prolific and dependable batsman, scoring runs in Tests, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20s with a level of frequency that shows he has matured into the player he was always destined to be.

If Rohit Sharma has not matured at the same pace, he loses nothing in comparison to Kohli when it comes to natural talent and there is no other player in the game whose batting is as aesthetically pleasing to watch. India also have the likes of Yuvraj Singh, just returned to the side after battling cancer, as well as Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir, to add a further sense of invincibility to their line-up.

Away from the sub-continent their bowling attack might not cause any opposition sleepless nights, but the Sri Lankan pitches are sure to offer the likes of the returning Harbhajan Singh, the under-rated Piyush Chawla and the highly promising Ravichandran Ashwin, much assistance.

Their fast attack will be led by two left-arm swing bowlers in the veteran Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan who are capable of troubling any top order in this format.

India’s major obstacle may come if they encounter fast seaming wickets that offer bounce to the quick bowlers, but teams can expect such conditions in Sri Lanka to be the exception rather than the rule.

India, who can field more than half the team from the 2007 tournament which they won, have played 36 T20 internationals, with 18 won, 16 lost, one tied and one no result. They have losing records to the West Indies, one win and two losses in three matches, against England, one victory and three losses, and surprisingly, they have played New Zealand on four occasions and have lost all.

Gambhir is their most prolific player in this format with 755 runs in 28 matches at a strike rate of 122.56. Their best bowler has been Pathan with 23 scalps in 18 matches at an economy rate of 7.88

India’s first match is against Afghanistan, a day/night encounter, on September 19 at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. England are the other team in their Zone A.

Tournament predictions – should make the semi-finals and are a likely tournament winner.Squad: M. S Dhoni (cpt), Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, Virat Kohli, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ravichandran Ashwin (WG)

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