Indian batsman and Captain Virat Kohli (L) shakes hand with South African wicket keeper Quinton de Kock (R) after winning the match during the second day of the One Day International (ODI) cricket match between South Africa and India at the Centurion cricket ground on February 4, 2018 in Centurion, South Africa. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

World-leading Virat Kohli hoping to spoil the England party as India bid for Cricket World Cup success

Two-time Cricket World Cup winners India are the most likely team to spoil the England party at this year’s tournament.

Ranked second in the world, and second favourites with the bookmakers, India boast the world’s top two ODI batsmen and the top ODI bowler too.

A balanced squad, packed full of players in good form at the IPL, will ensure Virat Kohli’s team are one of the main attractions of the Cricket World Cup.

Kohli and Rohit Sharma are ranked one and two in the world as ODI batsmen, while Jasprit Bumrah leads the bowling charts.

MS Dhoni offers stacks of experience in the middle-order, meanwhile, and Hardik Pandya arrives as one of the key figures from Mumbai Indians’ IPL triumph.

India will be the last team to get their tournament under way, as there is a mandatory window between the IPL final and their next international match.

But once the ball is rolling, they could gather momentum pretty quickly – particularly if they come through what are two of their toughest fixtures early in the tournament.

India are the only team other than Australia to have won the World Cup in the last 20 years – doing so on home soil in 2011.

Here are the men looking to send them back to the top of the world in England…

Key player: Virat Kohli

India captain Virat Kohli continues to go from strength to strength to strength. A run-scoring machine, there is no question he is the world’s leading batsman across all three formats.

Kohli’s statistics are phenomenal across the board, but his ODI record is almost without parallel.

Of the batsman to have played more than 50 ODI innings, his average is comfortably out in front – 59.57 over 219 innings, in which he has scored 41 centuries and another 49 half-centuries.

He passes 50, on average, once every two-and-a-half innings and he has done so with a strike rate of 92.96.

Kohli has proved his quality time and time and time again, and it is no surprise his India team are among the favourites to lift the World Cup trophy as a result.

Others to watch

Rohit Sharma

Fresh from captaining Mumbai Indians to IPL victory, Rohit Sharma heads to the World Cup as the second-best batsman in the world according to the ICC rankings.

Sharma has hit 22 ODI centuries in 200 innings, on his way to 8,010 runs – his promotion to the top of the order paying huge dividends for India.

At the IPL, Sharma scored 405 runs and got his captaincy spot on too – his order to Lasith Malinga to bowl a slower ball as Mumbai won a last-ball thriller in the final, for example.

Sharma has three double-centuries in ODI cricket, including his world-leading highest score of 264 against Sri Lanka, and he remains a huge batting threat at the top of the order.

Jasprit Bumrah

Another member of the victorious Mumbai Indians team, Jasprit Bumrah is fit again and firing.

The world’s number one ODI bowler has taken 85 wickets in his first 49 games in the format, while he finished the IPL with 19 wickets in his 16 games.

Bumrah not only takes wickets, but he also does so with a brilliant economy rate – starving batsmen of runs.

In a game of such fine margins, his 2-14 from four overs in the IPL were match-winning figures and earned him the man-of-the-match award.

The scariest thing for opposition batsman is that he might not even have reached his peak yet as he is just 25 years old.

MS Dhoni

The veteran of this India squad, any questions around MS Dhoni’s form have been answered in style in recent months.

India’s captain during their last World Cup triumph eight years ago, Dhoni has been a key figure in their recent successes and also helped lead Chennai Super Kings to the IPL final.

His hotly-debated run out arguably turned that final too – as a master of pacing his innings in a chase, had he been there at the death, Chennai could well have been champions.

Like Kohli, Dhoni averages over 50 in ODI cricket – 50.72 to be exact – having hit 71 half-centuries and ten hundreds on his way to 10,500 runs.

While his tendency to start innings slowly can sometimes cause both him and the team to become unstuck, his judgement in a chase is usually spot on.

In a tense finale, you would want Dhoni on your side – and, aged 37, the veteran wicket-keeper-batsman can add another world crown to his phenomenal CV.

India provisional squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Name Age Role
Virat Kohli (c) 30 Batsman
Rohit Sharma 32 Batsman
Shikhar Dhawan 33 Batsman
KL Rahul 27 Batsman
Vijay Shankar 28 All-rounder (RM)
MS Dhoni 37 Wicket-keeper-batsman
Kedar Jadhav 34 Batsman
Dinesh Karthik 33 Wicket-keeper-batsman
Yuzvendra Chahal 28 Bowler (LS)
Kuldeep Yadav 24 Bowler (chinaman)
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 29 Bowler (RMF)
Jasprit Bumrah 25 Bowler (RFM)
Hardik Pandya 25 All-rounder (RMF)
Ravindra Jadeja 30 All-rounder (SLA)
Mohammed Shami 28 Bowler (RFM)

 

Key fixture

June 16 – India vs Pakistan (Old Trafford, Manchester)

The Bharat Army will be out in full force, as they always are in Manchester, for one of the most eagerly awaited clashes of this year’s World Cup.

With a huge global television audience always tuning in for these matches too, there is far more at stake than just the two points for a win.

History is on India’s side in this encounter, however – they have faced their fierce rivals six times in World Cup history and have won all six.

India Cricket World Cup 2019 fixtures

June 5 South Africa Rose Bowl, Southampton
June 9 Australia The Oval, London
June 13 New Zealand Trent Bridge, Nottingham
June 16 Pakistan Old Trafford, Manchester
June 22 Afghanistan Rose Bowl, Southampton
June 27 West Indies Old Trafford, Manchester
June 30 England Edgbaston, Birmingham
July 2 Bangladesh Edgbaston, Birmingham
July 6 Sri Lanka Headingley, Leeds

 

Happy to avoid

Hong Kong

India tend not to slip-up against the lower-ranked nations. They beat Kenya twice at the 2003 World Cup, for example, the year the Kenyans got to the semi-finals.

They also beat Hong Kong at the Asia Cup last year, but only after a huge scare for India. After posting 285/7, India had no answer to the Hong Kong openers as they racked up a 174-run partnership in 34 overs.

India eventually hit back, sealing a 26-run win, but the warning signs were there – no Hong Kong at the World Cup, means no chance of them going one better and upsetting India.

Form guide

India looked like they were going to be heading into the World Cup in brilliant form, until a stunning Australia comeback in their most recent ODI series cost them their unbeaten run.

Since losing to England last year, despite winning the first game of the three-match series, India had won the Asia Cup – beating Bangladesh in a thriller in the final – and then beaten West Indies, Australia and New Zealand.

Virat Kohli’s century in the second match, at Nagpur, put India 2-0 up in the series but the hosts could not close out the series. Failure to defend 358/9 in the fourth ODI proved costly – Australia’s highest successful run chase levelling the series before the tourists wrapped up victory in Delhi.

Prediction

India are second-favourites for this tournament and possess the all-round quality to ensure they feature at the sharp end.

A top-four place is, realistically, the absolute minimum requirement for India and from there it is all to play for.

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