Cyclone threat looms as Bangladesh looks to upset India

It would be unwise to read too much into the outcome of a bilateral series when India is missing key players, but a series defeat would cause some concern.

If the arriving cyclone is to have any effect on the second T20I, it offered no hint of it on match-eve, as India and Bangladesh trained under clear blue skies.   -  PTI

India and Bangladesh trained under clear blue skies at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on Wednesday afternoon but as dusk fell, the weather took a turn for the worse. Strong winds and heavy rain lashed the ground, shattering glass panes, breaking a wooden scaffolding, and sending sheets of tarpaulin flying this way and that.

In half an hour’s time, the outfield had come to resemble a shallow lake; the cyclone had duly arrived. The rain continued to pound away for an hour, before eventually fading in intensity. It remains to be seen what weather Thursday brings, and if there will be a full contest between India and Bangladesh in the second T20I here.

In the event of a game, though, there is much at stake for both sides. India's defeat in the first encounter of the three-match series was unexpected but it is no longer a result — as Rohit Sharma pointed out — that may be classified as an upset.

Bangladesh ought to have registered its first T20 win over India some time ago, and Sunday's victory — when players kept a cool head towards the end instead of imploding in a panic — will have given the touring side much confidence.

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There were no extravagant celebrations from the Bangladesh team at the finish; Mahmudullah's men clearly believe they can return home with a series win. India's 2-0 defeat to Australia in February was its first home T20 series loss in over three years.

In September, the side drew 1-1 with South Africa after a thrashing in Bengaluru. The T20 World Cup is still a year away, and it would be unwise to read too much into the outcome of a bilateral engagement when India is missing key players, but a series defeat to Bangladesh now would cause some concern.

Room for improvement

Moreover, there is a sense — not entirely unfounded — that T20 is India's weakest format. There is work to be done. In Delhi, India's poor use of its review in the field, Krunal Pandya's dropped catch, and Khaleel Ahmed's 19th over understandably drew attention. But India did not exactly dazzle with the bat either.

Shikhar Dhawan made a laboured 42-ball-41, the sort of innings that simply puts too much pressure on those batting at the opposite end. India managed only 35 runs in the Powerplay, before the hundred arrived in the 16th over.

Rohit Sharma defended that approach as being necessary on a difficult surface, but the top six — with the exception of Shreyas Iyer and perhaps the captain — ought to have shown greater intent. India would approach its batting differently in the second T20, Rohit stated, because the pitch here was conducive to stroke-making. There was no need to make changes to the batting group, he felt; it seems unlikely that the bowling combination will be tinkered with either.

To Bangladesh, a series win will be cause for celebration, especially given the circumstances under which the touring party arrived in the country. India will be desperate to avoid a series defeat, even if the players have been keen to deflect all talk of pressure. The home team made mistakes in the first match; it cannot afford any more of them in the second. But first the weather must relent.

The teams (from):

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

Bangladesh: Mahmudullah (capt.), Liton Das, Abu Hider, Afif Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain, Al-Amin Hossain, Aminul Islam, Shafiul Islam, Taijul Islam, Mohammad Mithun, Mohammad Naim, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, and Arafat Sunny.