Asia Cup Preview: Bangladesh look to halt India's march
To stop rampaging Indian batsmen on pitches in the sub-continent is a nearly impossible task. Bangladesh however, have slayed giants before and if the opening ODI of Asia Cup was anything to go by, the hosts can go into Friday's match with more than just a job of mopping up.
March 16, 2012
Start time 1400 (0800 GMT)
The worry for Bangladesh is that a lot of their chief weapons fired in the tournament opener, Pakistan played below par, yet Bangladesh still lost. Their two world-class batsmen - Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan - got half-centuries, their rising star Nasir Hossain made a substantial contribution, and their left-arm spinners were miserly. There was even the bonus of a three-wicket burst from one of their medium-pacers. There is still room for improvement, of course, but Bangladesh's tendency in recent months has been to underperform rather than exceed expectations, and it is hard not to feel they have already produced their performance of the tournament.
India cannot afford to think that way, but even without Virender Sehwag around to call Bangladesh "ordinary", they will be confident they can handle whatever the home team throws at them. The 2007 World Cup upset apart, India have been dominant against Bangladesh, their batsmen collecting plenty of runs against an attack suited to India's strengths. The challenge for India, perhaps, will be to put in a tight performance with the ball and in the field, rather than just rely on their batsmen to outscore Bangladesh. They started the Commonwealth Bank series with some impressive performances in the field but a familiar profligacy and sloppiness set in as the tournament progressed. With a long stretch of subcontinent cricket ahead of them, India will be hoping their spinners can start exercising the same sort of control over the opposition as they did in the home series against England and West Indies last year.
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In the spotlight
Forget the hundredth hundred, Sachin Tendulkar was not even able to go past 50 in the CB series, and averages 18.62 in eight ODIs this year. That is the kind of poor form that should put any player under pressure to keep his place, even if it is Tendulkar. He did not look too tense at India's optional training session on Wednesday, but cannot ignore his lean run of form. Weaker opposition and familiar conditions offer perhaps his best opportunity to get a big score. He has never scored an ODI hundred against Bangladesh and will want to change that so he can go in to the high-profile match against Pakistan with some confidence.
Mashrafe Mortaza's four-wicket haul against India in the 2007 World Cup remains one of the most memorable performances by a Bangladesh bowler in an ODI. Unfortunately, Mortaza's career has not quite followed the trajectory many though it would after that game, with a slew of injuries keeping him out of action for long periods. His latest comeback, at the age of 28, could be one of his last opportunities to contribute to Bangladesh cricket. He started well against Pakistan, giving away just 13 runs in a five-over first spell, but was taken apart by Umar Gul at the death.
Pitch and conditions
The pitches in Mirpur have been better for batting in the evenings, but the first two matches have been won by the team batting first. The slowness of the pitch in the afternoon did have its effect on India's innings against Sri Lanka, though, with Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli looking to work the ball around rather than score boundaries. The dew in the evening may also affect the Bangladesh spinners, and with India having proved recently that they can chase pretty much anything, MS Dhoni may be tempted to deviate from his bat-first policy.
After Ravindra Jadeja's poor performance in India's first match, Yusuf Pathan may get an opportunity in the second. India may also consider bringing in Rahul Sharma for either R Vinay Kumar or Praveen Kumar, who were both expensive against Sri Lanka, but Dhoni has always preferred having three medium-pacers in the side. Manoj Tiwary still awaits his opportunity after scoring a century in the last ODI he played for India, but it is hard to see who could replace in the XI. Rohit Sharma did not get an opportunity in the first game, Suresh Raina showed signs of returning to form and Virat Kohli will not want to miss a game being in the form he is in.
India (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 MS Dhoni, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 R Vinay Kumar, 11 Praveen Kumar
Mushfiqur Rahim defended the decision to play just six specialist batsmen against Pakistan, so will probably go in with the same strategy.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Nazimuddin, 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Jahurul Islam, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Abdur Razzak, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Shahadat Hossain