It will be a fresh beginning for a full-strength India in limited overs cricket after the World Cup semifinal exit as they face a buoyant Bangladesh, who have more to gain then their famed neighbours, in the three-match ODI series starting today.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is back at the helm, along with six other ODI specialists to take on a side that made the cricket world sit up and take notice by reaching the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals, where they were knocked out by an in-form Indian side.
The series is a platform for the hosts to exact revenge for the World Cup defeat, which had turned ugly after the then ICC President Mustafa Kamal of Bangladesh accused the umpires of favouring India.
As far as the Indian team is concerned, even a 3-0 result against the hosts will not be enough for the second-placed side to claim the number one spot in the ICC rankings, while a favourable outcome for the home team will boost its qualifying chances for the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Besides an opportunity to erase the memories of the World quarterfinal debacle Down Under, the prospect of earning a Champions Trophy berth will be motivation enough for the Tigers to roar.
Arriving here with their main team, India have given enough indication of, in Suresh Raina’s words, “how important a series this is for us”.
From the Indian squad’s point of view, this series is a far cry from the one that played against the same opponents in June last year. Back then, eight first-choice players were rested for a three-ODI tour and seven of them are part of this one.
The seven players – Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar – were seen in the nets at the academy ground of the Shere Bangla National Stadium ahead of the first game.
Asked if the series holds significance, Raina said, “Yes definitely. You saw that after the IPL, the full Test team came and now the full ODI team has come.
“Bangladesh have done well in ODIs recently, and this shows how important a series this is for us. We have done well in ODIs recently, and we are looking forward to it.”
The Uttar Pradesh left-hander will be one of the
mainstays of Indian batting’s middle-order alongside his captain Dhoni and Kohli.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma automatically fill in the openers’ slot with the consistent Ajinkya Rahane beefing up the top-order. The all-rounder’s slot could go to Ravindra Jadeja while Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashwin and Mohit Sharma are expected to form the bowling attack.
The team management might also explore the options of trying out Stuart Binny or Dhawal Kulkarni in at least one of the games.
While the numero uno spot is beyond reach, Dhoni’s side can reduce leader Australia’s advantage to 10 points should it sweep the series three-nil. In that scenario, Bangladesh will slip to ninth position on 96 points. If India win the series 2-1, they will remain on 117 points, while a 2-1 loss will place them alongsgide New Zealand on 115 points.
Considering the improvements Bangladesh made in ODIs in recent times, India cannot afford to take their opponents for granted.
The Tigers have whitewashed Zimbabwe and Pakistan and appear a very settled unit in 50-over format.
Fast bowler Taskin Ahmed, who celebrated his ODI debut by running through India’s batting order with figures of five for 28, will be keep to produce a similar effort. He took three for 69 in that World Cup quarter-final defeat.
Besides, they have the likes of Mashrafe Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal, who have been consistent performers for the side, and all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.