By Amlan Chakraborty
NEWDELHI (Reuters) – After India beat Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai, Virat Kohli hoisted Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders for a victory lap, declaring the batting maestro deserved it after carrying the burden of the nation for over two decades.
For someone who has been shouldering the same burden since Tendulkar’s 2013 retirement, Kohli would merit a similar treatment if he can inspire a triumphant campaign in England.
With a powerful batting lineup, power-hitting all-rounders and bowlers capable of taking early wickets and strangling sides through the middle and at the end of an innings it would not surprise if the side did clinch their third title.
Kohli’s side have form and history behind them, having reached the final of the last two global events in England.
Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they won the 2013 Champions Trophy and then finished runners-up when they returned four years later with Kohli as the skipper.
Kohli banished his own English demons last year when he comfortably finished as the leading scorer in the test series and second highest scorer in ODIs even though England won both.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan also has fond memories of England, having walked away with the player-of-the-series award in the 2013 Champions Trophy and finishing as the highest scorer in 2017.
Completing the devastating top order is Rohit Sharma, the only batsman with three 200-plus knocks in ODIs including a 264 which remains the highest individual score in the format.
India have also acquired a varied pace attack in recent times, a luxury denied to Kohli’s predecessors, spearheaded by a seemingly nerveless death-overs exponent in Jasprit Bumrah.
As if his sling-arm action and unusual release point are not bad enough, batsmen often struggle against his clever change of pace and an enviable ability to bowl yorkers at will.
“Let me go on record and say he is the best bowler in the world at this stage and his best is yet to come,” Tendulkar said of the top ranked ODI bowler.
The wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been instrumental in India’s strong ODI performance in recent times while they have unearthed an explosive all-rounder in Hardik Pandya.
Kohli is also privileged to have by his side a walking think-tank in Dhoni, who led India to World Cup victories in both limited overs formats.
One of the smartest cricketing brains around with the experience of 341 ODIs, Dhoni’s lightning-quick hands and an uncanny ability to plot dismissals in collaboration with the spinners make him a great asset for the side, who start their campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)