India v Bangladesh, Women's World T20 preview - Match 1
The home side has momentum on its side, but it will be interesting to see how it deals with the pressure of expectations
14 March 2016 16:34
Bangladesh is among the most energetic and enthusiastic lot on display in the tournament. Its warm-up matches and training sessions have been loud, full of laughter and with the energy of young children. And it’s that enthusiasm that has pushed it to put up such impressive performances in both the practice games.
In its first match against Sri Lanka, despite scoring only 95 runs, it gave the opponent quite a scare by picking up five wickets before Shashikala Siriwardene batted them out of the contest. Against Ireland then, Bangladesh was at its very best, restricting the competition to 73 for 9 before chasing down the target in 7.3 overs.
India, meanwhile, has been clinical. Since its historic series win in Australia earlier this year, Mithali Raj’s team has found a winning combination, and that momentum has brought it into the World T20 as one of the favourites.
India was mostly untested in its practice games against Ireland and Sri Lanka. Smriti Mandhana starred in both with unbeaten scores of 73 and 42 respectively, underscoring her reputation as the lynchpin of the Indian batting since returning to form during the home series against New Zealand Women last July.
India will be the favourite going into the opening match of the championship and if its form of late, where it beat Australia Women (2-1) and Sri Lanka (3-0), is anything to go by, it might be a rather one-sided contest.
But Raj, the Indian captain, stressed that there wouldn’t be any over-confidence. “We haven’t played Bangladesh and Pakistan for two years now, since the last World T20 in Bangladesh, and two years is a long gap in international cricket,” she said. “Having said that, our preparation has been good, so we will work to our strengths.”
Many of India’s batters haven’t had much game time in the warm-up fixtures, as it lost four wickets against Ireland and just two against Sri Lanka. Mandhana has been in fine form, while Vanitha VR played a solid knock against Sri Lanka as well. Apart from the top four, the likes of Veda Krishnamurthy and Anuja Patil did not get a decent hit in either of the matches.
“Ideally, I would have liked to play New Zealand or Australia in one of the practice matches. Although our batting line-up has not been really tested in this format the girls are very confident and I hope, as a captain, that whoever gets an opportunity in the middle makes the most of it,” said Raj.
As for the bowlers, they also seem to have found their groove. India is no longer a one-woman attack – Jhulan Goswami apart, Shikha Pandey has also provided her team with the early breakthroughs, while Poonam Yadav, Patil, Ekta Bisht and Rajeshwari Gayakwad, the spinners, have helped tie up the middle overs as well.
Bangladesh faces a stiff test against an Indian team that seems to have all its bases covered. It played its last international match against Ireland in November, but Jahanara Alam, the Bangladesh captain, said she was confident that her side was well prepared. “Our preparation has been good and we are very confident. As a team we believe nothing is impossible,” she said. “We know India is one of the strongest teams in the competition and we just want to play good cricket, the result will take care of itself.”
Rumana Ahmed, the leg-spinner, has done well for Bangladesh in the warm-up games taking seven wickets in two matches, but she failed to find any support from the rest of the attack. Salma Khatun, the off-spinner, will also be key to Bangladesh’s campaign. The former captain has failed to deliver as per expectations, but Alam was confident that she would find form when necessary.
India is riding on a wave of confidence that has carried it to uncharted territory. It would be interesting to see how Raj’s team responds to the pressure of playing a World Cup at home, but like the captain said, before the team thinks of the final it must figure out how to get there.
Bangladesh may not boast of big names, but it certainly has the heart and enthusiasm to give the host a run for its money.
India: Mithali Raj (capt), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Thirush Kamini, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Niranjana Nagarajan, Shikha Pandey, Anuja Patil, Deepti Sharma, VR Vanitha, Sushma Verma (wk), Poonam Yadav.
Bangladesh: Salma Khatun (capt), Ayasha Rahman, Fahima Khatun, Fargana Hoque, Jahanara Alam, Khadija Tul Khubra, Lata Mondal, Nahida Akter, Nigar Sultana (wk), Panna Ghosh, Ritu Moni, Rumana Ahmed, Sanjida Islam, Shaila Sharmin, Sharmin Akhter.
For the Group B preview see here.