‘Kohli a better chaser than lemon after a tequila shot’
INDIA jets to England and Wales as a World Cup heavyweight searching for its third crown.
Polarising captain Virat Kohli - the first batsman to truly master all three forms at international level - has the golden opportunity to elevate his immense standing in Indian cricket by delivering the country's first World Cup won on foreign ground in 36 years.
With a batting line-up dripping in firepower and game-changers with the ball, India has the weapons to match the aggressive tempo tournament favourite England is expected to set.
Openers Shikar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both own World Cup centuries and score at a strike-rate of 105 in the middle overs, while Kohli and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni are better chasers than a lemon wedge after a shot of tequila.
While Dhoni, 37, has a penchant for dragging games into the final over, his success at clubbing the winning runs is extraordinary, and that is built off experience after playing 341 ODIs.
Kohli averaged 133.6 in 2018 and is arguably the tournament's biggest drawcard. Vijay Shankar is likely to bat at No.4 after being hailed a "three-dimensional player" by Indian selectors, although it's been musical chairs in that position for some time.
Veteran Dinesh Karthik stumped youngster and Test gloveman Rishabh Pant as Dhoni's understudy in a selection surprise while Lokesh Rahul appears to be the reserve batsman.
It's a shame the energetic and entertaining Pant will have to wait until the 2023 World Cup in India to get his chance on the biggest stage.
Jasprit Bumrah has spent the past few months tormenting Australia's Test team - chiefly, former opener Aaron Finch - and evolving that dominance into some fiery spells in the Indian Premier League.
The pace ace is the ICC's No. 1 ranked ODI bowler in the world and will want to atone for his costly spell in the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan.
Bumrah's economy rate in the IPL also highlights how difficult he is to put away and, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar sharing the new ball, rival openers are in for some testing times.
Spinner Kuldeep Yadav sits No. 7 on the world rankings after the left-arm wrist spinner claimed 45 wickets in 19 ODIs in 2018. But Yadav has just four wickets from nine IPL games and was recently dropped after struggling to make an impact.
India desperately needs him to bounce back in the World Cup although Harbhajan Singh recently pointed out that it was fellow Indians doing the T20 damage against Yadav and Singh was confident foreign batsman would continue to struggle against him in England.
Is India's middle order too brittle for English conditions? The prized wicket of Kohli - and resulting lift fielding teams enjoy when they see the back of him - could leave India vulnerable for the odd collapse if the two new balls nibble around.
Australia will be leaning on Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa to continue their hot streaks against Kohli when they meet at The Oval on June 9.
A tough initiation with matches against South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and fierce rival Pakistan to start the tournament. If Kohli's men can win two or three out of those they will be firmly on course for the semi-finals.
Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami
RECENT ODI SERIES
Lost 2-3 against Australia (India)
Won 4-1 against New Zealand (New Zealand)
Won 2-1 against Australia (Australia)
Won 3-1 against West Indies (India)
Lost 1-2 against England (England)
Won 5-1 against South Africa (South Africa)
*India has won 13 out of its past 16 ODI series but dropped its final three games to hand Australia a series win on home soil in March
5 June - v South Africa, Hampshire Bowl
9 June - v Australia, The Oval
13 June - v New Zealand, Nottingham
16 June - v Pakistan, Old Trafford
22 June - v Afghanistan, Hampshire Bowl
27 June - v Windies, Old Trafford
30 June - v England, Edgbaston
2 July - v Bangladesh, Edgbaston
6 July - v Sri Lanka, Headingley