Bangladesh's tour of India is finally happening after so many events in lead up to the T20I and Test series. Bangladesh players' strike, Shakib Al Hasan's ban and then the Delhi pollution talks had surrounded the first T20I but with all these issues now taking a back seat, the national capital will see the first T20I taking place on 3 November.
With the 2020 World T20 in Australia looming ahead, all teams have started focussing on T20 cricket to prepare for the mega event. Pakistan and Sri Lanka played a T20I series with each other last month before Lankans flew to Australia to play another. New Zealand and England are currently engaged in a 5-match series. Every team wants as many opportunities as possible to prepare for Australia. India and Bangladesh are no different. With Shakib suspended for one year, Bangladesh need someone to come ahead and fill his shoes. India have a handful of issues as well in T20s, with the middle order yet not settled and many youngsters vouching for a spot.
The series gives an opportunity for think tanks in both the teams to tick some boxes. Meanwhile, we look at some of the key battles which, in the larger picture, can be essential in deciding the fate of the series.
Mustafizur Rahman vs Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma, India's best batsman in this Virat Kohli-less team and the captain, will be the most important wicket for Bangladeshis. 2019 has been Rohit's year, striking five centuries in the World Cup and then making merry as a Test opener for India, not long ago. He will be eager to shine in T20s as well with the bat. To stop this Hitman, Bangladesh will be hugely dependent on Mustafizur Rahman who is expected to get the new ball in his hand.
Especially in Delhi, Rahman should enjoy the battle as the Kotla pitch offers low bounce and ball comes slow on the bat after pitching. We may see cutters from Rahman straightaway. Rohit would have prepared for Rahman in the nets with Khaleel Ahmed bowling those inswingers to him. He has fallen prey to the one that darts in from the left-arm seamers.
Bangladesh spinners vs Rishabh Pant
Bjorn Fortuin has three T20I wickets to his name, two of those are Rishabh Pant. For the uninitiated, Fortuin is a slow left-arm orthodox bowler from South Africa and he dismissed Pant twice in the T20I series played in India. If on one occasion, Fortuin was lucky to get Pant out, with the left-handed batsman missing while trying to hit the short of length delivery for six and giving his wicket away, in the last T20I, Fortuin masterly planned Pant's fall. He knew that the Indian wicket-keeper was under immense pressure after a series of failures with the bat and his way out of the dark phase was the big shot. Fortuin bowled wide of the off-stump as Pant targeted the long-off area. He had a fielder placed over there for this vert fault shot. Pant fell for it and eventually holed out at long-off.
Pant had a tough time in the Caribbean as well against spin, falling to left-arm orthodox Fabien Allen. There are plenty of spinners in the Bangladesh squad, including Taijul Islam and Mosaddek Hossain who must have penned down these limitations in Pant's batting of late.
Mahmudullah vs Indian pacers:
Mahmudullah's importance in the team has grown exponentially after the ban on Shakib Al Hasan. He is leading the team and will also have to be the accelerator for the team in the slog overs. He bats well in the late overs and luckily, will not have a Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami to deal with. There is not even a Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the Indian ranks. Hence, the onus will be on Deepak Chahar and Co to make sure that the Bangladesh batter does not go into attacking mode in overs 15 to 20. It would be interesting to see this battle as Khaleel, Chahar and Shardul, three of India's main pacers, do not really enjoy bowling at the death.
Indian spinners vs Bangladesh middle-order: India possesses some T20 specialists when it comes to their spin bowling department. Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and Rahul Chahar are all quality in T20 cricket and have decent IPL records. Spinners will play a huge role to stop the flow of runs in the middle overs. Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah form the nucleus of Bangladesh batting. These two are also good batsmen against spin and one can expect them to bat as much as possible in the middle overs to take the team deep. The likes of Chahal, Sundar and Pandya will look to get them out cheaply in this phase and cut short, Bangladesh's chance of victory.
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India captain Virat Kohli stated that "confusion and lack of clarity" has led to the team management playing a "waiting game" on Rohit Sharma's availability which is not ideal
The flamboyant all-rounder, who is remodelling his action after a back surgery, is still not ready for that workload which is affecting the balance of the side, an admission that came from skipper Virat Kohli himself.
Shastri said his team's pace unit was the best in the world, despite being likely to be without the injured Ishant Sharma who is receiving treatment India for a muscle tear.