Both teams are missing their biggest stars ahead of the T20I series, but India aren’t really at a disadvantage as much as neighbours Bangladesh are, or so would some say.
The services of Virat Kohli and Shakib Al Hasan will not be available for the upcoming T20I series — which extends to all competitions for the next one year in the latter’s case — for very different reasons.
Kohli has been rested by the selectors in order to ease his workload with Rohit Sharma taking his place as the captain, while Shakib has been slapped with a two-year ban by the ICC for not reporting corrupt approach. This not long after the star all-rounder led a players’ strike against the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB).
The strike nearly derailed the tour, and the BCB had to cave in to the players’ 11-point list of demands for the team to finally fly to the other side of the border and avoid BCCI’s wrath in the process.
But that was only the beginning of a troublesome period for the world’s leading all-rounder, with the board mulling legal action against him over an endorsement, which was followed shortly after by the shocking news of his admission to being approached by an Indian bookie.
The drama that has played out in Bangladesh cricket would make one wonder whether the team is mentally in the right zone ahead of the first T20I in New Delhi. Senior batsman Mahmudullah Riyad, who has taken over the captaincy duties for the series, thinks Shakib’s lengthy absence from national duty will only serve to inspire the squad.
“I think this (Shakib's absence) will work as motivation for us. I think there's no greater honour than playing for the country. The responsibility to lead the side lies with me, so I will try to give it my all,” said Mahmudullah in the build-up to the series.
Shakib, however, isn’t the only loss to the Bangladesh squad. Tamim Iqbal had earlier opted out of the tour for personal reasons and Tigers are likely to feature a Liton Das-Soumya Sarkar opening combination for the series.
A couple of days before Tamim’s announcement, all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin, who had produced a fighting knock against the Indians in the World Cup earlier this year, had been ruled out due to a persistent back problem. The BCB though, are yet to name a replacement for Saifuddin in the squad, although the team management will hope to see other all-rounders such as Afif Hossain to step up in his absence.
Rohit, who has had sporadic bursts as captain in the blue jersey, has quite a bit of history with the Bangladeshis in white-ball cricket going all the way back to the contentious no-ball in the 2015 ICC World Cup.
The Mumbaikar knows a thing or two about beating Bangladesh in formats that they are considered a threat in. The ‘Men in Blue’ have beaten the Tigers in the final of two multi-nation white-ball tournaments (Nidahas Trophy and the Asia Cup, both in 2018) under his leadership, and certainly have the upper hand going into the upcoming three-match series.
With the hosts having begun their preparations for the ICC World T20 that takes place a year from now on the other side of the planet, we could see some interesting changes in team combination in this series, even in the very first match at the newly-christened Arun Jaitley Stadium. While India batting coach Vikram Rathour isn’t a big fan of frequent chopping-and-changing himself, he admitted the team needed to identify its core with a big tournament looming over them.
“But a big tournament is coming so we need to know the core of our team and we need to maintain that core. And in between, try out new players who are coming through,” said the former India opener.
The MSK Prasad-led selection committee had earlier included Kerala keeper-batsman Sanju Samson and hard-hitting Mumbai all-rounder Shivam Dube — his maiden India call-up — in the squad, which has created a buzz in Indian cricket circles.
Dube enjoyed a superb run in the recently-concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy, and will hope to channel his hard-hitting skills in the death overs as well as his handy medium-pace bowling should he get picked, which his skipper had hinted in a press conference a day before the encounter.
There was also a bit of a circus created over shifting the first T20I out of New Delhi, which has turned into a gas chamber of sorts at the moment with a public health emergency being declared in the national capital.
Some members of the Bangladesh squad were seen training in masks, reminiscent of the sight of Sri Lankans taking to the field sporting a similar look in the Test that was played at this venue in December 2017. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, though, cleared the matter by maintaining that the match will go ahead as per schedule, with the India captain giving the green signal on behalf of his players.
India will hope to maintain the momentum gained from the crushing victories over South Africa last month, even if their next set of assignments is in a very different format. Barring a home ODI series defeat to Australia and a collapse against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final earlier this year, Team India have had a blemishless run across formats this year, and are looking more menacing than ever on home soil.
Bangladesh though, have a knack for springing up surprises from the unlikeliest of positions, as they nearly did in the 2016 World T20 encounter. Coach Russell Domingo will hope his team has learnt a lesson from that one-run defeat, and do not suffer a brain-fade in the upcoming series.
India: Rohit Sharma(c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant(wk), Manish Pandey, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Chahar, K Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube
Bangladesh: Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mohammad Naim, Mahmudullah(c), Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Aminul Islam, Mohammad Mithun, Mosaddek Hossain, Abu Hider Rony, Mustafizur Rahman, Shafiul Islam, Arafat Sunny, Al-Amin Hossain, Taijul Islam.
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