It’s precisely this focus, concentrated to the extent of being single-minded, that India is relying on as it attempts to book a place in the semifinal of the World T20 for the first time since 2007. Having brushed Pakistan and West Indies aside in its previous matches, India runs into Bangladesh – itself battling a million problems – in its third Group 2 Super 10 game on Friday night, all too aware of the immense possibilities that lie ahead.
Victory on Friday will guarantee India a place in the last four should the West Indies defeat Australia earlier in the evening, but it’s unlikely that India will look too far ahead. One of Dhoni’s many admirable traits has been the ability to keep his team in the moment, to impress upon the players the perils of getting ahead of themselves. A semifinal spot might be tantalisingly close, and while that is admittedly the first target of all teams playing in the Super 10s, India knows that if it successfully address the simple task of stacking up victories, progress in the competition will take care of itself.
Where India is riding the crest of a confidence wave on the back of its performances on the park, Bangladesh is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with its morale down after successive losses to Hong Kong in the qualification phase and to the West Indies in its Super 10 opener. As much as the defeats, it’s the manner of those losses that has been disappointing. Hong Kong was a massive blow, but sometimes, the Twenty20 format can throw up such unexpected results. The West Indies defeat will, however, be more difficult to digest simply because Bangladesh's cricket was as it was crushed by 73 runs.
It will take a Herculean effort for Mushfiqur Rahim to get his team off the floor. Bangladesh has, after its heavy loss, only an outside chance in its quest for a semifinal berth. its best bet now is to surprise one or two of the big boys and scuttle their designs of advancing past the Super 10s. It’s not a task beyond Bangladesh; it has the quality and the personnel to trouble and even lay low the best in its own backyard, but first it must start believing that it can do so.
The defeatist look Bangladesh wore against West Indies must be replaced by the hungry, eager-to-perform visage befitting its moniker of Tigers if it has to stay relevant in the formidable Group of Death. Like most teams, Bangladesh is heavily dependent on a good start, particularly with the bat, but Tamim Iqbal and Anamul Haque hasn't found form yet. It’s possible that, stung by successive totals of 108 and 98, Bangladesh might opt to begin conservatively, but that goes against the batsmen's natural grain and may not necessarily be the most prudent approach.
Twenty20 games aren’t won by sitting back and allowing for things to unravel. The better teams chart out their own luck, embrace the positive and make the play. That doesn’t necessarily mean two strokes a delivery, but a better understanding of the situation and the response it deserves. If India bowls as well as it has in the first two games, Bangladesh will need to show intent in rotation of strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. If the India bowlers stray in their directions, then it will call for a more aggressive, boundary-driven approach. Bangladesh’s twin challenges will be not just to identify the moments, but also to summon the skills to seize them.
From India’s point of view, the new-ball bowling must be accurate enough to build substantial pressure for Amit Mishra, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to work with. Mishra has been a wonderful addition to the mix, his ripping legspinners the perfect offensive weapon in the middle overs. He will relish the conditions at a ground where he has had excellent success in four matches over the last month. If Bangladesh continues to be as uncertain as it was against Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine on Tuesday, Mishra will be dictating the flow of play, with Ashwin and Jadeja not lagging too far behind.
Refreshed after a four-day break, India can see a ray of light at the end of what for so long has been a bleak World T20 tunnel; Bangladesh, its campaign so far notwithstanding, has pride as much as anything to play for. The perfect way to round off a potentially decisive evening, as the main bout to follow the Australia-West Indies undercard.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (capt, wk), Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza, Ziaur Rahman, Sohag Gazi, Al-Amin Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Nasir Hossain, Farhad Reza, Shamsur Rahman.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Mohit Sharma.