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India faces stern test against confident Bangladesh

Mortaza and Co are on a nine-match winning streak at home, while visiting side looks to make amends

India faces stern test against confident Bangladesh - Cricket News
Bangladesh is currently on a nine-match winning streak at home.

There has been a rare occurrence in Bangladesh over the past couple of days –  the appearance of sustained sunshine, almost as if to mirror the country’s mood after the home side took a 1-0 lead in a three-match series, leaving India to play a “semifinal and a final”, as MS Dhoni put it, to win the series.

Rain caused a stoppage of only one hour in the first ODI and didn’t cause a reduction in overs, and it has been conspicuous by its relative absence since. If the forecasts are to be believed, the second ODI on Sunday (June 21) is also likely to be interrupted, with a thunderstorm predicted, but, for now, the skies over the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur are clear.

Chandika Hathurusinghe, the Bangladesh coach, was quietly confident of his team continuing the good work, tempering optimism with pragmatism. “I won’t say we are favourites, but we are confident about the series,” he said on Saturday, the match eve. “For me it’s all about playing good cricket. Always when a younger brother competes with the older brother, there is a bit of a thing, because they always look at Bangladesh as the younger nation playing cricket. Now, we are competing with big teams. I can’t speak of rivalries, but the main thing is that the players are playing hard.”

Both teams will enter the match with the scales a lot more evenly balanced than it would have seemed before the series started. If there was any complacency in the India camp, it will have been jolted after the 79-run defeat.

India had problems with both batting and bowling in the first ODI, and even though one defeat is too soon to judge a team that has done very well in the 50-over format for a sustained period, the team management might want to contemplate some changes in the playing XI. None of the pacers – Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar – looked effective, a fact made more stark when contrasted with the success Bangladesh’s quicker men had. Dhawal Kulkarni is on the bench and if India want to strengthen the batting, Stuart Binny’s all-round skills could also be called on, particularly given the success he enjoyed as a bowler at the same ground last year.

R Ashwin began poorly, but bowled an outstanding spell in the middle to bring India back into the contest, and he would have to bear the load of being Dhoni’s primary weapon once again. Ravindra Jadeja’s form, though, continues to be a concern. A year ago, the feisty cricketer from Saurashtra could be relied on to choke the flow of runs whenever needed, chipping in with a wicket or two, being handy with the bat and electric on the field. The other qualities remain, but the bowling has lacked bite, robbing India of a key element of control.

After the defeat, Dhoni spoke of the importance of learning from it and individuals taking responsibility for what went wrong. “When you lose a game, it’s very easy to just go under a shell. But it’s more important to see the reasons for which you lost. Even when you win, it’s important to see why you were in positions of bother in the game,” said Dhoni. “All the individuals are quite experienced at the international level, and in games you lose, they tend to pick what went wrong, and most times you’ll find the individual standing up, taking responsibility and getting ready for the next game.”

Bangladesh has fewer selection headaches. While the four-seamer ploy worked a treat and could be persisted with, Bangladesh had much to thank its batsmen for too, particularly Soumya Sarkar. The elegant left-hander seemed unstoppable until he was run out, and is clearly a batsman who oozes talent and class. It was his innings that allowed Bangladesh to carry out its plan of relentless attack. Sarkar’s fluency and rate of scoring meant Tamim Iqbal could afford to chance his arm and get away with it.

As heartening as the century opening stand was the recovery from 146 for 4. In the past, Bangladesh had lost its way, but Mashrafe Mortaza’s current side is more assured of its skills in ODI cricket and has the self-belief to compete with the biggest and best.

Rohit Sharma, who looked in the best nick among all Indian batsmen while scoring 63 in the first match, emphasised that with the quality of cricket Bangladesh were playing off late, no side could take them lightly, or for granted. “It’s very important that we stick to our game plan,” said Rohit the day before the second game. “We knew what went wrong in the first match. We will think about it and when we come back and play the second ODI, it will be a different Indian side. They played some good cricket in the first game, and we have to be at our best, as simple as that. With the current form they are in, we have to be at our best.”

Bangladesh is currently on a nine-match winning streak at home, and has every reason to believe that it can be extended. India has a series, and its pride, on the line. If rain stays away, another exciting game could be on the cards.

Teams (from)

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni.

Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Litton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman, Arafat Sunny, Rony Talukdar, Mominul Haque.

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