India seek strong riposte

RARE OCCURRENCE: India skipper Virat Kohli, who has five successive half-centuries, will be hoping to finally turn it into a century against Bangladesh on Tuesday. REUTERS

Four years after India and Bangladesh fought a bitter quarterfinal battle at the 2015 World Cup in Melbourne, the two sides meet at the same stage in a game where at stake is more than a spot in semifinals.

The quarterfinal defeat at the MCG perhaps laid the foundation to a “new rivalry” -- more imagined by the fans on the other side of the eastern border of India -- in cricket and when the two neighbours meet here at Edgbaston on Tuesday, both will step out with different objectives on their mind.

Barring a self-destruction of monumental of proportions, India will be through to semifinals even if they lose their next two matches thanks to their healthy net run-rate. On the other hand, Bangladesh, who have done just enough to keep themselves in contention for qualification at the business end of the tournament, must win to keep their hopes alive (see the scenario).

Bangladesh will also have that extra motivation of beating India to exact “revenge” for their loss in 2015. The defeat wasn’t just a denial of a place in the semifinal for the emotional Bangladeshis, but it was a national slight. A no-ball call for height that saved Rohit Sharma, who went on to slam a match-winning century, led to an angry outpouring of public emotions with no little help from the frenzied media. Quite bizarrely, the then ICC President from Bangladesh Mustafa Kamal blamed ICC for Bangladesh’s 109-run loss, charging that the match appeared to have been "pre-arranged" and there was "no quality in the umpiring."

Since then “beat-India-at-any-cost” has preoccupied the minds of Bangladeshi fans even though the players have maintained a safe distance from all the frenzy. Since that defeat, Bangladesh have lost two more knockout matches to India in ICC events. They lost the World T20 match by one run, helping India progress in the tournament while they were crushed by nine wickets in the 2017 Champions Trophy semifinal here at Edgbaston with Rohit Sharma – who else? – scoring an unbeaten 123.

As for India, the 31-run defeat to England on Sunday at the same venue would have chastened them enough before the final push towards semifinals.

On a lop-sided surface, toss always becomes crucial and Virat Kohli was unlucky to call it wrong. The much-discussed dimensions of the ground, with one side of the boundary just about meeting the minimum standards, and the placid nature of the pitch were tailor-made for England batsmen to regain their verve and purpose. The flat surface and England’s attack-minded willow wielders left India’s spinners unnerved as the hitherto-impressive Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav leaked 160 runs between them.

With the same pitch being used for Tuesday’s game and the shorter boundary – 59 metres – coming into play, India maybe well-advised to revisit their two wrist-spinners’ strategy which also elongates their tail. With assistant coach Sanjay Bangar declaring Bhuvneshwar Kumar fit and available, it’s likely India will go with three pacers along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Bangar also hinted at Ravindra Jadeja coming into the scheme of things, but with three left-handed batsmen in the top-order, it remains to be seen if the team management picks the left-arm spinner, ahead of Chahal. Kuldeep takes the ball away from southpaws and has a superb googly. Jadeja’s inclusion will also bolster their batting which at present ends with No 7 batsmen.

The No 4 spot has come into focus again after K L Rahul’s promotion to the top of the order opened the position. Vijay Shankar didn’t do much of note before a toe injury ended his World Cup stint while Rishabh Pant will need some time to settle in that place. It also remains to be seen how Rahul shapes up tomorrow after a tumble on the fence had hurt his back although he did open the innings later for a nine-ball duck. The injuries have unsettled the batting group, but they don’t have much time to fix the problem.

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