It seems we are in a fast-forward mode. The cramped schedule of this Asia Cup has not allowed a single day’s gap between the end of the group stage and the beginning of the ‘Super Four’ phase. Having played that inconsequential final league game against Afghanistan on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi, Bangladesh players will get less than 12 hours of recovery time before taking on the tournament favourites India in Dubai on Friday.
With no points being carried forward from the league stage, all the four teams have to buckle up and start afresh in the second round. It means a team like India, who won both their league games, will carry no advantage in the ‘Super Four’ and Bangladesh, following that humiliating defeat against the Afghans, have to regroup and bounce back in no time.
Most importantly, coming into this game, both teams have their own issues to sort out.
A new-look team combination for India
With Hardik Pandya being ruled out of the tournament, India will be forced to change their team combination of two fast bowlers and two spinners alongside his all-round skills. The defending champions have also lost two other players due to injuries — Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur. To fill up these three spots, the selectors have sent two fast bowlers, Deepak Chahar and Siddarth Kaul alongside the all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who last featured in India’s ODI team back in June 2017.
Now the question is whether the team management will sacrifice batting depth of the side to play a seamer in place of Pandya? Highly unlikely.
Should that be the case, the only option for the management is to play Jadeja — not exactly a bad choice on these slow-low pitches. If he plays, India will have three quality spinners alongside the part-time option of Kedar Jadhav. However, in the pace bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will be the only two options. And if they play an extra batsman like Manish Pandey, the bowling department gets thinner.
Hence, picking the XI on Friday will be a tricky task for skipper Rohit Sharma and the think-tank. However, apart from that one position, there is hardly any change expected in the rest of XI for India.
In batting, ideally the team will look for another decent start from the openers. Shikhar Dhawan has batted well in the last two games while against Pakistan, Rohit hit a classy half-century as well. Down the order, a lot once again will depend on Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik, whereas MS Dhoni alongside Jadhav and Jadeja will play the role of finishers.
Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.
Bangladesh need to cross mental barriers
Tamim Iqbal’s injury has severely hurt Bangladesh’s chances in this Asia Cup. At the top of the order, he anchors the innings. Now in his absence, someone like Mushfiqur Rahim, at No 4 batsman has to do the job despite not being 100 percent fit either. Another player who’s not fully fit is Shakib Al Hasan, who has come to this tournament postponing a surgery in his injured finger.
Rahim and pacer Mustafizur Rahman were rested against Afghanistan and both will be back in the XI on Friday.
There is some inexperience in this Bangladesh top-order. Opener Liton Das is renowned as a technically solid batsman, but he hasn’t been in good touch so far in the tournament. His partner Nazmul Hossain just made his debut against Afghanistan on Thursday night.
Hence, this batting line-up will look towards its three stalwarts in the middle — Shakib, Rahim and Mahmudullah — to get the bulk of the runs. Others just have to bat around them.
Also, keeping his experience in mind, Bangladesh may ask Mominul Haque, their Test specialist to open the innings in place of inexperienced Nazmul.
Talking about Bangladesh’s bowling, in the death others on Thursday night, they found it hard to tame Rashid Khan’s attacking batting. Now, within 24 hours’ time, they will be dealing with the fiery Indian batting line-up. It will be a huge ask for this bowling attack, but the inclusion of Mustafizur will give them a better chance of succeeding.
Nevertheless, while taking on India, the biggest challenge for Bangladesh is to get over the mental barriers, a problem which had hurt them in past quite a few occasions in recent years.
Predicted XI: Nazmul Hossain/Mominul Haque, Liton Das (WK), Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman.
In limited-overs formats, we have had a few close India-Bangladesh encounters of late. So, it won’t be surprising if this game goes down to the wire as well. And if it actually turns out to be a closely-fought encounter, it will be a perfect scenario for the expected sell-out Friday crowd at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
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