It is uncommon for India in the last decade to enter the last ODI of a series with the primary, if not sole, aim of averting a whitewash. But that is what MS Dhoni’s beleaguered and under-fire team faces when it plays Bangladesh in the third and final match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur on Wednesday.
Under Dhoni’s leadership, India have been blanked in bilateral ODI series just thrice – in England in 2011 when they lost 0-4 (there was one tie), in South Africa in 2013 when they were beaten 0-2 an in New Zealand in early 2014 when the hosts won 4-0 (one tie). On this tour, a full-strength team has been beaten by 79 runs and six wickets by a far more determined and focused Bangladesh outfit.
Bangladesh have achieved clean sweeps over opposing teams before, but beating India, ranked No 2 in ODIs, would be something else. Twice they have beaten Zimbabwe 5-0, twice New Zealand by 4-0 and 3-0 margins and once 3-0 over West Indies and Pakistan, apart from brushing aside teams like Kenya and Ireland, and now they will fancy themselves a third time against an Indian side lacking hunger.
The 2015 ICC World Cup semi-finalists were expected to put up a fight in the series, but a 0-2 scoreline is an accurate reflection of the gulf in class. India’s batting has been shaky; just two fifties to Bangladesh’s four, with Virat Kohli averaging 12. R Ashwin apart, their bowling has been very ordinary. Ravindra Jadeja has conceded runs at just 5.06 but his one wicket has come at a cost of 76 runs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been committed but lacking in pace. Mohit Sharma was horribly out of sorts in his solitary appearance, going for 11.35 an over. The death overs have been a mess.
What has been alarming from the team that defied the odds to reach the World Cup semi-finals this year on an unbeaten streak, during which it bowled out every opposition until that fateful Sydney evening, is the sheer inability to counter Bangladesh’s batsmen and bowlers – chiefly the rookie left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman, who has a record 11 wickets in two ODIs.
A jubilant Bangladesh team now stands on the doorstep of a second consecutive ODI sweep – they beat Pakistan not long ago – and there is every reason to believe that they can do it. They have out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded the No 2 ranked side to send their passionate fans into delirium, and must surely be geared up to a new level after two convincing wins. Their bowlers, chiefly 19-year-old Mustafizur, have thwarted a jaded Indian batting order with pace, bounce and accuracy and getting solid turnovers from the likes of Nasir Hossain (2/33 on Sunday) has added to the image of a well-rounded ODI unit.
India made three changes for the last game, dropping Ajinkya Rahane, Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav for Ambati Rayudu, Axar Patel and Dhawal Kulkarni. It is likely that Rahane returns for Rayudu, who made 0, and that perhaps Stuart Binny returns to the scene of his extraordinary six-wicket haul last year for left-arm spinner Axar Patel. Binny’s inclusion will bolster the lower order and give Dhoni a seam-up option. Considering that pace has been Bangladesh’s strongest aspect this series, Binny’s inclusion would make sense. Kulkarni may not hold his place after conceding 42 runs in six overs for one wicket, leaving one from Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma to return.
Rain is again on the horizon as it has been every day since India landed in Dhaka before the one-off Test. So far, Bangladesh’s plan to play four quick bowlers has worked well on skidding surfaces. Will India learn a thing and adopt a similar approach? Desperate times often call for desperate measures, but then again it would be entirely in keeping with the Dhoni way for the captain to stick to what he relies on more.
Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Litton Das (wk), 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Sabbir Rahman, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Rubel Hossain, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Stuart Binny/Axar Patel, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni/Umesh Yadav/Mohit Sharma