Dubai: Pakistan pummelled, India will look to up the ante against Bangladesh, who have a penchant for playing the party poopers, in their opening Super Four encounter of the Asia Cup here Friday.
For India, the worry will be the team combination as Hardik Pandya has been ruled out of the tournament owing to back spasms, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar might be rested after back-to-back games against Hong Kong and Pakistan. Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed may come in place of Bhuvneshwar but it is still not clear as to who would be Pandya’s replacement. Deepak Chahar is flying in as the replacement player but it is unlikely that he will be drafted straightaway into the playing XI.
Manish Pandey can add batting depth and looks a possible addition in the middle-order, while Kedar Jadhav’s off breaks are more than handy, and he is expected to take care of Pandya’s quota of overs. Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were amongst the runs in the first two matches while Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik looked solid against Pakistan. It is Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s batting form that could keep the team management worried. Dhoni hasn’t been firing and it will be interesting if Rohit promotes him in the batting order to give the veteran time to get settle down.
While India’s rivalry with Pakistan is historic, the one against Bangladesh has been a bitter one post the controversial 2015 World Cup quarterfinal at Melbourne. However, one can’t deny that Bangladesh are now a quality 50 over side, a format they have mastered after a formidable run at home besides reaching the Asia Cup final in 2012.
Under the inspirational Mashrafe Mortaza and seasoned campaigners like Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmydullah Riyadh, the team has the potential to go all the way. With two quality pacers in Mustafizur Rahaman and Rubel Hossain backed by the experience of Mortaza and Shakib on a slow deck, India could find run-scoring difficult in the middle overs.
The Bangladesh team and its media’s perception of India being the proverbial big bully adds a dash of excitement to the contests. Friday’s encounter won’t be any different as Bangladesh are forced to play back-to-back matches in Abu Dhabi (vs Afghanistan Thursday) and in Dubai (Friday). This wasn’t the original schedule, but the BCCI had managed to arm-twist the Asian Cricket Council in tweaking it, causing a lot of heartburn.
”Even if we win against Afghanistan (on Thursday), we will be tagged as second in group and will have to travel to Dubai tomorrow after playing in Abu Dhabi today,” Mortaza had said on the eve of the Afghanistan game.
So, that feeling of being undermined is very much there in this Bangladeshi team, and it won’t be surprising if the infamous ‘Mauka Mauka’ chant is back in the lips of their fans. Overall, the match has more ingredients to become a blockbuster than the one against Pakistan.
Meanwhile Pakistan will be aiming to put up a better batting show against Afghanistan at Abu Dhabi. The likes of Babar Azam, Imam ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman might find it challenging to face Rashid Khan, especially after their big win against Sri Lanka.
India: Rohit Sharma (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Deepak Chahar
Bangladesh: Masrafe Bin Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan (VC), Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Litton Kumar Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Nazmul Islam Apu, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Haider Rony.