A series win in Rajkot will be a perfect antidote for healing Bangladesh cricket at this juncture while India will need to wed discipline with a changed approach to stay alive in the series
Bangladesh's first-ever T20I win in the Delhi gas chamber, against the odds, wasn't a surprise. It's a measure of their meteoric growth in the last few years coupled with the fact that unlike ODIs and Tests, India haven't managed to crack the T20 code yet.
India are fifth in the ICC T20I rankings table compared to first in Tests and second in ODIs. In the last one year, they have won just one of the five bilateral T20I series, against West Indies, lost two (against Australia and New Zealand) and drawn two.
With the increasing struggles, their conservative batting approach, especially in the powerplay, is gaining microscopic focus. They seem to be using the same template as the ODIs and getting off to cautious starts, especially in the Powerplays.
Against Bangladesh at the Feroz Shah Kotla, they scored just 35/1 in the powerplay while Bangladesh, in their innings were 10 runs ahead. Shikhar Dhawan's approach came under the spotlight for his 41 off 42 balls, Rishabh Pant struggled to get going and scored 27 off 26. Factor this, India's run-rate never touched seven or more from the second to the 19th over. It was the 16-run final over which propelled them to a run rate of 7.40.
In T20I cricket, where the margins are minimal, such an approach could leave you way behind and force you to play catch-up. They need to instil emergency into their game. It's not just the boundaries, the quick singles and twos on a consistent basis also put the pressure on the opposition.
Rohit blamed the nature of the pitch, which was slow, gripping and two-paced, for their struggles. As they head to Rajkot, the approach will no doubt be in focus. And Rohit knows that. It's something that seems to be at the back of his mind.
"Conditions were not ideal," Rohit said ahead of the Delhi match. "The pitch was a little soft. The shot-making was not easy, so we have to assess and see what sort of score we want in the first six overs, then seven to 15, and the last five overs. You have to break it down like that. When you are playing on a pitch like that, you've to see what the ideal score would be to defend. That was the idea. But if the pitch is good you'll see a different team India approach tomorrow."
The stand-in captain has a few busy days after the Delhi loss. The other things he will need to focus is on discipline and judgment.
Mushfiqur Rahim's drop by Krunal Pandya at the deep mid-wicket boundary in the 18th over was perhaps the game-changer. He was on 38 off 36 balls at that time and went on to take Bangladesh past the finish line, scoring 60 from 43 balls. It was an easy catch and it stung India. In a format where converting half-chances is crucial, not capitalising on full chances is a cardinal sin.
Mushfiqur would have been back in the hut a lot earlier had India decided to review the LBW appeal given not out against him off Chahal in the 10th over. The Bangladesh wicket-keeper batsman was on 6 and that misjudgment from Pant and Rohit was another seminal moment. Further, they wasted a review by reviewing Soumya Sarkar's caught being decision wrongly, mainly on Pant's insistence.
"148 was a good score," Rohit said after the Delhi match. "We would have defended it if we were smart on the field. A couple of decisions we did not get it right on the field and that went against us. That's where we lacked in decision-making," he said.
Rohit would also demand an improved performance from the pacers, in the last match, the pacers — Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed and Shivam Dube (Who bowled just 3 balls) conceded 70 runs from 7.3 overs at an economy rate of 9.33. The 18th over bowled by Khaleel was the nail in the coffin for India with Mushfiqur hitting him for four fours in the 18-run over. Rohit hinted that they might change the pace combination for the second T20I. And there are chances that the team management might look at bringing in Shardul Thakur in place of Khaleel.
Khaleel has been around the Indian team for some time now and needs to take his game a notch higher amidst high competition.
India might not make any changes in their batting at Rajkot but if they do, then there are chances Sanju Samson might come in, in place of either KL Rahul or Pant.
"Our batting looks good. So I don't think there's any change we need to make in our batting. But we'll analyze the pitch, and based on that we'll see what we can do as a team," Rohit said in the pre-match interaction
"The (pace-bowling) combination that we played in the last game, it was based on the pitch on offer in Delhi. We will see the pitch again today and we will think what we need to do in our bowling line-up," he added.
Amidst the haze, literal and metamorphic, Bangladesh, who have been riding the bumpy ride of late, brought smiles to their fans' faces with their first-ever T20I win against India, in Delhi.
And they achieved it without Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hassan. Coming into the series on the back of tensions with the board and Shakib's ban and pulling off an away victory against India, which in Mushfiqur's words is special, would have been a massive confidence booster as well as relief.
The hopes from Mushfiqur had risen in the absence of key men and he lived up to the expectations. The way they approached the chase was impressive. It was calculated and smart as they waited for the pacers to come back and then attacked late. It showcased that they have learnt from their past mistakes and for Mushfiqur, exorcising the 2016 World T20 Bangalore ghosts, would have given him extreme satisfaction. He will again be the key heading into the Rajkot game.
Bangladesh won't be looking to tinker with the winning combination. Their spinners were impressive and will again form the spine of their bowling.
Rohit expects the Rajkot pitch to play better than Delhi.
"The pitch looks good. Rajkot has always been a good track to bat on and it does offer some assistance to the bowlers also. It will be a good pitch. I'm pretty sure it will be better than what you saw in Delhi," the India captain said ahead of the match.
It's not just the tactics, strategies and the dressing rooms, the skies will also be in focus in Rajkot.
Rain threat loomed large over Rajkot T20I due to Cyclone Maha. However, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the cyclonic storm which is currently over the Arabian Sea, is likely to weaken into depression and may not hit Gujarat coast on Thursday.
Smoke, off-field problems or cyclone, Bangladesh are no strangers to storms of late. A series win in Rajkot will be a perfect antidote for healing Bangladesh cricket at this juncture. For India, they will need to wed discipline with the change of approach to stay alive in the series and make it a happy 100th for Rohit.
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