Gavaskar backs 'well-balanced' India to end world title drought

Dubai (AFP) – Batting great Sunil Gavaskar says India will be the team to beat in the Twenty20 World Cup with a "well-balanced" unit and mentor M.S. Dhoni's experience.


India, who clinched T20's biggest prize in 2007 but have not won a world title since the 2013 Champions Trophy, begin their campaign against old rivals Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday.

"India has a well-balanced team and its performances in the warm-up games have been outstanding so they definitely are the team to watch out for," Gavaskar told AFP.

Virat Kohli's India, who bowed out of the semi-finals in the previous edition in 2016, outplayed England and Australia in their two warm-up matches in Dubai with top batsmen KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma scoring half-centuries.

The pace attack led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah is looking good and premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin got Australia's David Warner and Mitchell Marsh off successive deliveries in their last tune-up.

The presence of former captain Dhoni in the team has been a big boost for Kohli and his players.

Rohit is the only member of the current team that won the inaugural title under Dhoni when they beat Pakistan in a thrilling final in Johannesburg in 2007.

Gavaskar said the experience of Dhoni, who won India two World Cups including the 2011 50-over crown, would be key to India's showing in the United Arab Emirates.

"Dhoni should be bringing all his experience into play," Gavaskar said. "And helping with strategy especially in tough match situations."

Dhoni, who recently led Chennai Super Kings to their fourth Indian Premier League crown, played 448 white-ball matches in his illustrious international career between 2004-2019.

The 32-year-old Kohli took over as India's captain across formats from Dhoni in 2017.

But a World Cup win still awaits Kohli who will step down as the national T20 skipper after this tournament.

But Gavaskar said the team is above individuals and the fact that they haven't won a major title in eight years is motivation enough to bring the T20 title home.

"First and foremost it's a team that wins or loses a title not an individual," said Gavaskar, who was part of India's World Cup-winning team in 1983 under Kapil Dev.

"So since India's last world title was in 2013 the players would be keen to win another title this time around and end the title drought."

However Gavaskar, who had predicted England's 50-over World Cup triumph to AFP in 2019, said the shortest format is unpredictable and tough to call.

"The T20 format is the hardest format to predict as the game can turn on its head in an over or two," said Gavaskar.

"So no predictions but hoping that India will win the Trophy."