World Cup 2019: No longer unbeaten, India chases semifinal spot against Bangladesh

Bangladesh, on the other hand, will be looking for a win against India to keep its almost improbable last-four hopes alive

Virat Kohli's men will step in as the favourite against Bangladesh, who would love to stun its neighbour.   -  REUTERS

Virat Kohli’s men had a smooth World Cup campaign until they found their first hurdle in England. In a game that the host dominated at Edgbaston on Sunday, India stumbled. But it is time to move on as Tuesday’s match against Bangladesh awaits the Men in Blue.

The neighbours will clash on the same pitch that yielded a weekend run fest of 643, a number further embellished by centuries from Jonny Bairstow and Rohit Sharma. The venue with its short square boundaries can punish bowlers when they err in their radars and the rival attacks will be wary of muscular batting like the kind England displayed.

Despite an acutely slow start and a relative crawl in the slog against Eoin Morgan’s men, India has a strong set of willow-wielders. Rohit and Kohli are in sublime form while K. L. Rahul suffered his lone failure during Sunday’s joust. The middle order of Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, M. S. Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav needs to maximise the fine work from the men atop the batting tree.

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The quartet have had their stints in the middle, but in all the runs they collectively made ranging from veteran Dhoni to rookie Pant, who just played a lone contest, it is obvious that the trait of explosive batting largely vests with Pandya. Maybe Pant could move into that zone, but these are still early days for him in cricket’s showpiece event.

The youngster was a bundle of nerves in his initial stint against England, sprinting for nonexistent runs, diving to save himself and then emerging dishevelled from the turf. The left-hander showed he can hold his own on the global stage. His ability was never in doubt, but Pant needs to reiterate that he has the temperament to prosper when the fires rage around him.

The Indian attack had a lukewarm show in the skirmish involving England though Mohammed Shami scalped five and Jasprit Bumrah had a splendid economy rate of 4.40. However, spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav went for 160 runs in their combined 20 overs. Kohli might be tempted to drop one among them and either field Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Ravindra Jadeja. Both have adequate batting credentials and that is deemed a bonus as the current Indian tail is the kind that lizards shed at the first hint of trouble. Batting coach Sanjay Bangar conceded that the bottom half’s fragility has constricted the way the central-core performs.

Still, for all these minor quibbles, India will step in as the favourite against Mashrafe Mortaza’s men, who in a classic case of sibling rivalry, would love to stun their big brother. They have done that in the past, be it the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies or during an Asia Cup encounter at Dhaka in 2012. The last-referred clash featured Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international ton, but Mushfiqur Rahim and company ruined the maestro’s party.

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Bangladesh has shown that it can punch above its weight and it did that against South Africa and the West Indies. Shakib Al Hasan has been the pivot, crafting stupendous efforts, be it in batting or while wheeling his left-arm spin. The all-rounder has aggregated 476 runs and 10 wickets so far in this World Cup. With other seniors around him like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur and Mortaza, Shakib has lent hope to the denizens back home. Perhaps he mirrors the following line from Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane that chronicled the Bangladeshi disapora’s angst in London: “If you are strong, you withstand the storm.”

India needs a triumph to seal its semifinal berth while Bangladesh yearns for a win to keep its almost improbable last-four hopes alive. Time to say ‘game on’and this is far superior to the debates about which hilsa fish is tastier, the one you savour in Kolkata or the other you relish at Dhaka!

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), Rohit Sharma, M. S. Dhoni, K. L. Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant.

Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (Capt.), Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Abu Jayed, Liton Das, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Mithun, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mosaddek Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman and Soumya Sarkar.

Umpires: Ruchira Palliyaguruge and Marais Erasmus; third umpire: Aleem Dar; match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Match starts at 3 p.m. IST.