MS Dhoni leads India's highest impact World Cup side ever this year.
MS Dhoni leads India’s highest impact World Cup side ever this year.

The 2015 Indian team to play in the World Cup will be the highest impact team to ever represent India in any of its eleven editions.

This is a staggering fact through Impact Index, given the illustrious names missing in this year’s edition, compared to the one that played in 2011.

Despite Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan missing in this World Cup, the 2015 Indian team is higher impact.

Virat Kohli has become a much higher impact batsman, and Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round performances between 2011 and 2014 made him one of the highest impact players ever in the ODI format. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin have been very high impact ODI players too.

The current Indian team has India’s highest impact ODI player ever captaining it – Dhoni. His deputy is the highest impact Indian ODI batsman ever – Kohli. The bowling credentials are less impressive, though if we reduce minimum matches to 30 (which is not the best idea usually), Shami is right up there. India will need to bowl accurately and field really sharp – that could well be the key for this team to play to its potential this time around.

ALL TIME PERSPECTIVE

Before the 2011 World Cup, there were three players in that squad on a list of the highest impact ten Indian ODI cricketers of all time – Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Dhoni (minimum 75 matches).

The 2015 team has four such players – Dhoni, Jadeja, Kohli and Ashwin. Add the high impact of Rohit Sharma (despite his inconsistency) and Dhawan (though he has played less than 50 ODIs) and this becomes a very high impact team. Ishant Sharma, Ashwin and Shami (for his stunning consistency in this format) make for a steady, if not lethal, bowling attack in this format, where restrictive ability can have almost as much value as taking wickets.

There is no point calculating their impact in Australia as their sample size in those conditions is very low. Just like it was during the 2013 Champions Trophy in England – a tournament India won quite easily.

It is not a coincidence that this team is ranked no. 2 in the world. The Indian ODI side is very different from its Test side.

If this team plays to potential, they could be hard to stop.

A LOUD WORD OF CAUTION

None of the above is any kind of guarantee of success. Here’s why.

Below we arrange all the Indian World Cup sides as per their Team Impact before they embarked on their respective campaigns. These take into account the entire squads, not any constructed XI from that.

The Impact of each squad is calculated after taking into account each player’s impact and track record till that tournament.

 

Indian Teams Squad Impact
2015 2.62
2007 2.51
2003 2.46
2011 2.45
1992 2.40
1999 2.34
1996 2.27
1987 2.20
1983 1.81
1975 1.53
1979 1.30

NOTE: All numbers before that event began.
All Impact numbers between 0 and 5.

Please note which team has the second-highest impact here.

Everybody knows the 2007 Indian team grossly underachieved – when they were knocked out in the first round. It was partly also about that team making a shaky start in a slightly tricky competition format. Once they lost to Bangladesh and were forced to bat second against Sri Lanka on a sluggish pitch, they were struggling. But it makes the point, very emphatically, that these numbers are merely about potential; there are absolutely no guarantees of any kind.

It is interesting to see the 2003 and 2011 squads next. Both teams reached the final; the 2011 team even won it, with the added advantage of playing in familiar home conditions. Both those teams clearly played to potential.

It is curious to see the 1992 team as high as it is. One reason for that – the highest impact players from two successful ODI generations were in that team – Kapil Dev, Navjot Sidhu, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri. However, Kapil and Shastri were at the fag end of their careers while Tendulkar just finding his feet in ODI cricket. While some of its impact is thus camouflaged, it can still be argued that this team underachieved.

Kapil Dev helmed India's most overachieving World Cup side ever.
Kapil Dev helmed India’s most overachieving World Cup side ever.

Interestingly, it appears that the 1987, 1996 and 1999 teams were not quite as high impact teams as we thought at the time.

The 1983 team, of course, had not achieved much before that historic tournament. Hence its relatively low impact before that tournament.

BASING TEAM IMPACT ON CAREER IMPACT

To factor in the benefit of hindsight, we calculated the impact of all the squad members of each team, based on their career impact , not just the numbers before each tournament began. The idea is that it perhaps gives us a more holistic view of the team – what the team’s real potential is – the bigger picture, if you like.

Obviously, it is not possible to calculate the Squad Impact of the 2015 outfit as the players have clearly not ended their careers yet, but curiously, it is still higher than every other team.

The teams ranked thus – with the highest impact squad first – 2007, 2011, 2003, 1992, 1979, 1983, 1999, 1987, 1996 and 1975.

Once again, the 2007 numbers suggest gross underachievement. The 1979 squad’s position is very curious indeed. Many of the stars of 1983 were in it, though they just did not combine well as a team. Nor did they have an inspirational captain whom their players related to (S. Venkatraghavan). Most importantly, they had no self-belief – as is apparent from how their numbers plummet after the 1975 World Cup (table above).

Self belief should not be a problem for the 2015 outfit. Not after how they’ve played in overseas conditions and even won a world tournament in England just eighteen months ago.

THE OTHER TWO WORLD TITLES

In 1985, just two years after winning the World Cup, India won the World Championship of Cricket – a one-off ODI tournament in Australia. The Squad Impact of that outfit before the tournament began was 2.26, which is higher than that of the 1983 team (for obvious reasons) but interestingly even more than the 1987 and 1996 squads.

For those who remember the ease with which India won that tournament, would also remember two of its stars – spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, who hadn’t played a single game, and wicketkeeper Sadanand Vishwanath, who had played just 3. They both shone in this tournament but not much beyond that. And Ravi Shastri had his greatest moment.

The 2013 team that went to England for the Champions Trophy was not expected to do well. Indian teams have always done poorly in events just after the IPL, and this team was considered too inexperienced for a world event and that too in unfamiliar conditions. However, their impact before the tournament was 2.55 (would be second-best on the list above) and Impact had found them to be the second-highest impact side after Australia. As it happened, Australia flopped, but every other team played as per this preview, an odd thing to happen in such a short tournament.

But the way Dhawan, Jadeja and later even Ishant played, it belied all expectation. Beating everybody and winning the tournament was a stunning achievement – Dhoni’s transparent delight after winning this showed how much this was a team closer to his heart than even the 2011 one was.

The 2015 one is too, but this is Dhoni’s last big stage. It will, in all likelihood, be his swansong. How well his team harmonises around him will decide its fortunes.

 

Jaideep Varma/ Soham Sarkhel/ Nikhil Narain