Lights, smog, action - India set to greet Bangladesh in Delhi

Bangladesh has lost all eight matches it has played against India so far in the T20 format; in Shakib Al Hasan’s absence, the pressure will be on Mahmudullah to deliver.

India captain Rohit Sharma in conversation with bowling coach Bharat Arun on the eve of the first T20I against Bangladesh at the Arun Jaitley Cricket Stadium in New Delhi.   -  R.V. MOORTHY


Unsettled by the loss of Shakib Al Hasan due to a ban by the ICC, Bangladesh takes on India in a three-match Twenty20 International series beginning at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here on Sunday.

On Saturday, Mahmudullah politely declared his team had been motivated by the setback, but his team is now without two of its stalwarts — opener Tamim Iqbal had withdrawn from the series to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. In Shakib's absence, Mahmudullah has to fulfill the role of captain against a strong Indian side. He is relatively inexperienced in this role, having captained Bangladesh in just five matches; the record — four losses and a solitary win.

He will hope to oversee his team's first win in the format against India — it has lost all eight matches it has played against India so far.

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Of course, contests haven't always been one-sided. In the World T20 in 2016, Bangladesh lost by one run; it lost three wickets in the last three deliveries of the match in a dramatic finish. In a T20 tri-series final two years later, it suffered another heart-breaking loss as Dinesh Karthik smashed a six off the last ball to get India home.

Mahmudullah referred to these instances when looking ahead to the series. “We've gone very close but we didn't cross the line properly, and hopefully, we're going to learn from those mistakes that we've made in the past and if we face those crunch moments in the game I think we need to focus much more on our skills and executing it rather than think about the past,” he stated plainly.

Yet, for all its strength, the Indian team hasn't been invincible in this format in the last 12 months. Since November 21, 2018, it has been able to win only one out of five series. In February this year, it lost four out of five matches — two against Australia, and two against New Zealand.

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Moreover, the team is without Virat Kohli, it's regular captain, who has been rested. All-rounder Hardik Pandya and fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah are injured. There are a number of new, inexperienced players waiting to be given a run. Shivam Dube, who is yet to play an international match, is a like-for-like replacement for Pandya, while Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar and Khaleel Ahmed, with a combined experience of 22 matches, make up the pace attack.

The batting responsibilities rest on more experienced hands. Rohit Sharma, the interim captain, is set to become the most capped Indian T20I player, surpassing M. S. Dhoni, on Sunday, with 99 matches. Shikhar Dhawan, who is struggling for form, is likely to give him company at the top of the order. Dhawan hit just one half-century in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy, and will hope to be among the runs again.

Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant — all of whom possess the capability of turning contests around single-handedly — bulk up India's batting line-up.

The pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground had some grass on it, according to Mahmudullah, and it is unlikely to be low and slow as it traditionally is. The polluted air may cause discomfort to players from both sides.

Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman at a training session at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  R.V. MOORTHY


Bangladesh would rely on Mustafizur Rahman, its left-arm seam bowler who troubled India in an ODI series in 2015, to lead the pace attack. The batting department has more secure hands; Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah are known to be able to plunder potent bowling attacks.

The teams (from)

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, K. L. Rahul, Rishabh Pant (wk), Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Krunal Pandya, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Sanju Samson (wk), Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur.

Bangladesh: Mahmudullah (c), Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mohammad Mithun, Mohammad Naim, Abu Hider, Atif Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Arafat Sunny jr, Aminul Islam Biplob, Mohammad Aminul Islam, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Al-Amin Hossain, Shafiul Islam.

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