BIRMINGHAM: Losing their first game at the World Cup, to England here on Sunday, may actually help India as it takes away the burden of being the only unbeaten team in the tournament. India, needing just one more point to ensure semifinals qualification, now play Bangladesh on Tuesday, at the same venue and on the same pitch.
History, form and pedigree give India a distinct edge but Bangladesh have it in them to make it a scrap worth the occasion. In the last World Cup, the India-Bangladesh match created much controversy, leaving a majority of Bangladesh fans and even senior cricket officials convinced that Bangladesh were robbed of a possible victory due India’s clout with the ICC.
It was a turning point in India-Bangladesh cricket relations as the ‘big brother’ became ‘enemy No.1’ for the passionate Bangladesh fans, as far as cricket goes.
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, on Monday, tried to douse the fires by saying revenge was not the theme and it was like any other match. But the team knows the portents of a World Cup win over India. Bangladesh have shown they are no pushovers with their consistently strong performance in the World Cup. Besides, Bangladesh have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the knockouts. The Tigers will not be short on inspiration.
India will need to regroup after the debacle against England. A convincing show will help them get back on track. With Vijay Shankar ruled out of the tournament and his replacement, Mayank Agarwal, yet to join the squad, India will have to pick the eleven from the 14 available.
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar hinted that Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja were in contention to play on Tuesday. Bangar said Bhuvneshwar had recovered from the hamstring niggle and was available for the England game. The medium-pacer, he said, would be useful to the team with his batting in the lower order.
“When you don’t have major contributions coming from the lower order, someone like Bhuvneshwar becomes vital. And maybe someone like Jadeja too. It gives more freedom to someone batting at six or seven.”
Bhuvneshwar was the first choice pacer to partner Jasprit Bumrah before he was sidelined with a hamstring niggle. Mohammed Shami, his replacement, has gobbled up 13 wickets in three games, making it almost impossible for the selectors to drop him. It’s a piquant situation for the team – it will have to drop one of the two spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – to accommodate Bhuvneshwar. England played India with four front-line pacers with Ben Stokes as the fifth option.
Chahal and Kuldeep have been crucial cogs in India’s wheel but one of them may have to pay for the massive hammering the spinners got from England batsmen as India look to fit Bhuvneshwar in.
Bangar hinted at various selection possibilities. “We’re looking at various combinations. We’re open to playing three seamers with Hardik playing as the fourth. We’re also looking at playing Jadeja.”
One thing which is for sure is that Rishabh Pant, who made his World Cup debut on Sunday, will keep his place. “We are going to persist with Rishabh,” Bangar declared.
India will have to neutralise Shakib Al Hasan to have a smooth passage through the game. All-rounder Shakib, whom Mortaza called the ‘best player of the World Cup’, has been in blazing form and has the ability to inspire his teammates. Shakib vs India is going to be an interesting skirmish within the bigger battle.