Watch Ayaz Memon's analysis of the Asia Cup opener between India and Bangladesh
When Mirpur served up a green pitch in the final of the U-19 World Cup, it raised some eyebrows. Here, in the heart of the subcontinent territory that spinners had zealously guarded as their own —was a wicket tailor-made for fast bowling. The West Indies U-19 squad didn’t complain though, as it suited them just fine.
So when another green top was laid out to welcome the Indian team for the opening Asia Cup T20 game, it underlined the thinking in the Bangladesh camp: that pace was their strength and they would play to it. Yes, you read that right. A team from the subcontinent was laying out a green top, because pace, not spin was their strength.
Perhaps it was based on India’s travails against Mustafizur Rahman and co in 2015. Perhaps it was inspired by India’s struggles against seam movement in Pune. Or perhaps this is just what happens when you have a fast bowler as captain.
Irrespective of the inspiration, the ploy reaped immediate results for Bangladesh. Winning the toss and electing to field with four pace bowlers in the side, Bangladesh had India at 42 for three in the eight over, with the heart of the Indian batting having been ripped out. Al-Amin Hossain’s beauty to knock over Dhavan showed what this pitch offered for bowlers willing to pitch it up. And Kohli’s dismissal was one of many in the match where the extra pace and bounce meant the ball hit the sticker, not the sweet spot. However, Bangladesh seemed to let the excitement get the better of them thereafter.
In any game where an underdog hopes to topple the favourites, out fielding the opposition is a must. But When Shakib Al Hasan dropped Rohit Sharma at point in the 11th over, it shifted the momentum faster than a turncoat switches sides. The over that had started so promisingly — with Taskin Ahmed beating the bat the first two balls, then creating the opportunity — eventually went for 14. A misfield the same over showed the effects of the dropped catch spilling over, and highlighted what could have been versus what was.
Rohit Sharma, who had initially played the kind of khadoos knock the pitch demanded, cut loose. From 21 off 25 when he was dropped, he ended up with 85 off just 55 balls. Assisted by Hardik Pandya’s protean assault (31 off 18) — in which he looked more like a swordsman than a batter — India’ score of 166 was way above par for this pitch.
The Bangladesh bowlers were also guilty of not changing their lengths towards the back end of the innings. Perhaps enticed by the extra pace and bounce the wicket offered, they persisted with the back of a length strategy as late as the 18th over, which allowed Sharma and Pandya to get under the ball and over the boundary. Only in the last couple of overs did we see the appearance of the yorker, which Mustafizur and Al-Amin used to good effect to pull things back. Nonetheless, the last five overs haemorrhaged 70 runs, and Dhoni’s six off the last ball disrupted any inertia Bangladesh were gaining.
The shoe was on the other foot while Bangladesh batted, as Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah used the grass on the pitch to good effect with the new ball. They bowled a menacing spell, getting the ball to shout expletives, not just talk. A couple of early wickets and an insipid innings from Imrul Kayes (14 off 24 balls) meant Bangladesh were always playing catch up. Despite an enterprising knock of 44 (32 balls) from Sabbir Rahman, who carried his form against Zimbabwe into this tourney, the Bangladesh chase stuttered like Archie’s Jalopy to an inevitable breakdown.
Mashrafe Mortaza’s men need the balm of a win against the qualifiers to soothe yesterday’s bruises. In the next game against the UAE, the tigers may need to rejig their batting order, which looks short on experience at the top in the absence of Tamim Iqbal, who is on paternity leave. The likes of Mushfiqur and Mohamudullah need to get more overs to bat, not less.