Dhoni's fitness a concern as India takes on Bangladesh

If Mahendra Singh Dhoni is unavailable it will disturb the side's momentum going into the tournament opener against Bangladesh here.

M.S. Dhoni suffered a muscle spasm during the team's training session on Monday.   -  PTI

India enters the final phase of preparations for next month's World T20 with the Asia Cup starting tomorrow but, a cloud of uncertainty over skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's availability threatens to disturb the side's momentum going into the tournament opener against Bangladesh here.

Dhoni suffered a muscle spasm during the team's training session yesterday, prompting the BCCI to rush Parthiv Patel as his back-up.

The skipper's fitness is a concern going into tomorrow's match against the sprightly host, which has built a reputation of being a giant-slayer on more than one occasion.

The continental championship will be played in a T20 format for the first time, keeping the World T20 in mind and the need for the Asian teams to get some much-needed match time before the marquee event starts next month.

For India, which is considered title favourite, a good Asia Cup performance will give the team a much-needed boost going into the World T20.

While Dhoni has stated that “revenge is a very strong word in sport”, the Indian team will be keen to get even against a strong Bangladesh side. Bangladesh had beaten India in a three-match ODI series at the same venue last year under hostile circumstances with a partisan crowd backing its team.

The ODI series last year saw the emergence of left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman, who bamboozled the Indian batsmen with his variations.

The Indians have started their T20 preparations in right earnest having won back-to-back series against Australia 'Down Under' and Sri Lanka at home.

In the six T20 Internationals played this year, India has won five of them with the only defeat coming against Sri Lanka on an unusual Pune pitch in the last series.

If India reaches the final of the Asia Cup, it would have won another five T20 matches, taking the number of matches to 11 before the start of the World T20, and according to Team Director Ravi Shastri it would be “just what the doctor ordered”.

The team under Dhoni has looked set in the shortest format but, the real test starts with the Asia Cup as the business end of the preparation commences.

Momentum will be the key and Dhoni's men will be keen to seize the initial advantage even though it won't be easy by any means against a Bangladesh side, which will be more than a handful on home soil.

The Indian captain has indicated that he will like to give game time to all the 15 players in the squad although it is the winning combination that is expected to play against Bangladesh tomorrow.

The batting order looks set with the tried and tested combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma at the top of the order. Virat Kohli comes back at No. 3 after a much needed three-week break from cricket post the Australia tour.

India's premier T20 specialist Suresh Raina will be at No. 4 followed by Yuvraj Singh, who is slowly finding consistency.

Ravindra Jadeja and the big-hitting Hardik Pandya make it a strong top eight for India as far as batting is concerned.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah complete the line-up. Bumrah, however, did not train yesterday and team sources said he is a “little under the weather and advised rest”.

The batting order may have a lean day in office here and there. Otherwise it is in an “auto-pilot mode” according to Dhoni. But the Indian bowling will certainly be expected to get its act together on sluggish sub-continental pitches with Ashwin being the leader of the attack.

After an indifferent performance in a high-scoring ODI series in Australia, Ashwin found his mojo back at the start of the T20 series with 13 wickets from the last six T20 games.

In the series against Sri Lanka, he was virtually unplayable, grabbing nine wickets in three games with career-best figures of four for eight in the decider in Visakhapatnam.

Nehra and Bumrah make a good pace attack with one having loads of experience and ability to read match situations effortlessly, and the other with an unusual action able to rattle the batsmen by bowling yorkers at will.

Bangladesh's strength is the bowling attack with Mustafizur, Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain expected to pose a lot of challenge for the Indian batsmen.

With a handsome IPL contract, Mustafizur may again intimidate the Indian batsmen with Taskin and Al-Amin for support.

This is not to forget the enormous experience of skipper Mashrafe Mortaza and all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. The duo on their day along with former captain Mushfiqur Rahim can tilt the scales in the home team's favour.

The left-handed Soumya Sarkar and World Cup hero Mahmudullah make it a decent batting line-up for Bangladesh.

Squads:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, Ashish Nehra, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pawan Negi and Parthiv Patel.

Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt.), Imrul Kayes, Nurul Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Nasir Hosain, Shabbir Rahaman, Mahmudullah Riyadh, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Al-Amin Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahaman, Abu Haider, Mohammed Mithun and Arafat Sunny.

Match starts: 1900 hrs IST.