Over the past couple of years, the rapid rise of Bangladesh in the limited over's format has ensured it is simply not all about India and Pakistan. The Tigers are a formidable side on subcontinent pitches and India will be aware that a collective of small blunders could prove catastrophic. But despite Bangladesh challenging India, the Tigers have only managed to win two matches in the last three years and for them to be on the winning side, they need to win some key battles in Friday's encounter.
Shikhar Dhawan vs Bangladesh's opening bowlers
In a space of a week, Shikhar Dhawan has gone from a shaky opener to a tormentor. Dhawan is the in-form batsmen for India having a scored a century against Hong Kong and a solid 46 against Pakistan. Interestingly, the man nicknamed ‘Gabbar' is yet to score a hundred against the eastern neighbours in six outings and will be keen to carry on his good form. Bangladesh could experiment and try an off-spin of Mehidy Hasan at him early or bank on either Rubel Hussain or Mashrafe Mortaza. Dhawan has an ability to bat deep into the innings and if Bangladesh do not strike early, they could be in for a leather hunt.
Mushfiqur Rahim vs Kuldeep Yadav
In both of India's matches so far, neither Pakistan nor Hong Kong batsmen have been able to pick Kuldeep Yadav. The impact the left-arm wristspinner has during the middle overs had enhanced India's wicket-taking ability. Mushfiqur has been in scintillating form of late and his 144 against Sri Lanka earlier in the week was a further sign of his development as a cricketer. Mushfiqur is one of the best sweepers going around in world cricket and he is sure to pull out the broom in an attempt to put Kuldeep off his length. Mushfiqur also plays the ball late and the slowness of Kuldeep's pace will make it easier to play. At the same time, the turning decks and the size of the ground mean it will be difficult to hit sixes square of the wicket via the slog sweep. The tussle between the two will have a significant barring on the contest.
MS Dhoni vs Shakib Al Hasan/Mehidy Hasan
With Hardik Pandya ruled out of the tournament there is an additional pressure on MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik to really stand up in the middle order. Lately spinners have managed to choke Dhoni through the middle overs. In the last year, the former Indian captain's strike rate is only 59 against slow bowlers. Bangladesh has plenty of spin options and a lot of variety too. If they can strangle Dhoni, it will only add pressure on the Indian middle order. At the same time, it is an ideal opportunity for Dhoni to regain the form that he showed during this season's Indian Premier League (IPL). India needs Dhoni to find form and Bangladesh will be desperate to keep him in check. It will be a pivotal battle.
Shakib Al Hasan vs Yuzvendra Chahal
Ever since Shakib Al Hasan has promoted himself to No.3, he has been the lynchpin of the Bangladesh batting order. The left-hander is an exceptional player of spin bowling and India has the tendency to introduce spin very early in the innings in form of Yuzvendra Chahal. With the Indian leg-spinner turning the ball into Shakib, it opens plenty of scoring opportunities through his favoured leg side. Chahal on the other end has become a master at drawing the batsmen to swipe the ball against the line by either pushing the ball across the left-handers or slipping in the googly. Chahal has the happy knack of outfoxing the prominent batsmen from the opposition team. He is also a bowler that Shakib has not faced a great deal and it will be exciting to watch how the left-hander handles the Indian leg-spinner. If Shakib can get on top of Chahal then it will only add pressure on the Indian attack. Bangladesh desperately needs Shakib to win this contest if they are to spring an upset.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar v Bangladesh Openers
In space of 24 hours, Bhuvneshwar Kumar went from a rusty hesitant operator to a well-oiled rhythmic bowler. The right arm pacer was exceptional with his length and line against Pakistan; he will again hold the key to stop Bangladesh getting off to a flying start. Bhuvneshwar is a wily customer and by now he would have discovered that without any swing on offer, it will be his cutters, slower balls and immaculate length that will be crucial in his opening spell. Without Tamim Iqbal there is lack of stability in the Bangladesh top-order, having said that it will be vital for the openers to put the likes of Bhuvneshwar under pressure. As evident from India-Pakistan match, two nights ago, if Bangladesh let Bhuvneshwar dictate terms at the start, it enables the Indian spinners to dominate through the middle. Interestingly, Bhuvneshwar has only made early inroads against Bangladesh in one of his four outings.