“Beware the Ides of March” – Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19.
India begin their campaign against New Zealand in Nagpur on 15 March, marking the “real” start of the World T20.
Without a doubt, this will be Dhoni’s last World Cup campaign, ending an amazingly successful captaincy career during which he has led India to all three big titles – WT20 in 2007, the World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013. The big man will want to go out with a big bang.
His first hurdle will be New Zealand, on their first big campaign without the inspirational Brendon McCullum. They will be looking to Kane Williamson to lead from the front and will be hoping to build on their super show in the World Cup 2015.
Winning 10 of the last 11 T20 games, India is in excellent form and much has already been written about their “new and old” opening combination of Bumrah and Nehra. Ashwin and Jadeja will do their bit on the sluggish Nagpur surface and Pandya will back them up. However, India’s bowling will be severely tested by an explosive New Zealand line-up consisting of Ross Taylor, Guptill, Anderson, Ronchi and Williamson himself.
India’s batting is looking in good shape with Virat, Rohit and Shikhar all striking excellent form. The only question marks hang over Raina and Yuvraj. Both have shown glimpses of their ball striking abilities but neither has really set the world on fire.
India will play the WT20 opener with their home crowd behind them. The Kiwis are nice guys but will not be intimidated by the favourites. Historically, the underdog tag has suited the Kiwis quite nicely so Dhoni will want his boys to be focussed from the first ball. He has said as much in his press conferences.
If Dhoni is India’s Caesar, he seems already to be heeding the soothsayer on the Ides of March.