17th March, 2007. It was one of the darkest days in the history of Indian cricket. A team studded with superstars like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, had been beaten comprehensively Bangladesh (who were minnows at that time). The loss meant India had to beat Sri Lanka to qualify for the next stage, but the team led by Dravid failed to do that even. There was a lot of criticism for the performance – from fans, from former players and from captain Dravid himself.
10 years later, the two teams meet again. This time, the stakes are higher. It’s the semi-finals of an ICC tournament. Mashrafe Mortaza, who was the wrecker-in-chief (he took 4 for 38) in the 2007 edition of the tournament, is now leading the Bangla tigers. Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who formed a match winning 84-run partnership, are still around. Tamim Iqbal whose quickfire 51 gave Bangladesh the impetus to chase down a measly total of 191, still opens the batting. That aside, a lot has changed for Bangladesh cricket since then. Their players have now become dependable. They are now winning matches against top sides on a somewhat consistent basis. In fact, they can beat any team on their day, and it won’t be called an upset. In the last T20 World Cup, they needed just one run in three balls against India, but suffered an unbelievable collapse.
Virat Kohli’s men may think that they have an easy route to the semi-finals, considering they hammered Bangladesh (a 240-run defeat) in the warm-up game before the tournament. But, they’ll have to guard against complacency since Bangladesh will come out with a ‘nothing to lose’ fighting attitude.
They’re certainly not the favorites, but there are some things they can do to tip the scales in their favour.
Though it’s not in their control, Mashrafe Mortaza will hope that they can win the toss and bowl first. In this tournament, teams batting second have done better and Mortaza will hope that they can form crucial partnerships like Shakib and Mahmudullah did in the game against New Zealand. Batting second can also be beneficial if rain plays spoilsport, and the match is decided by Duckworth-Lewis method.
Captain Mortaza and Rubel Hossain, will have to bend their back to stem the flow of runs from Dhawan’s bat, and the only way to do that would be to take his wicket. Dhawan has hit the form of his life in this Champions Trophy, and is the leading run-scorer so far (271 runs). Bangladesh will also need to ensure that their top batsman, Tamim Iqbal (who is not far behind Dhawan at 223 runs) fares better than he did against New Zealand, where he was dismissed for a duck.
Even though, the Bangladeshi bowler has been having a bad run of form, he will take confidence from the fact that he once tormented the Indian batsman. If he finds his A-game and manges to hit the right areas, India will be in all sorts of trouble.
Sometimes, if you start the game badly, the other team relaxes a little bit thinking they’re up against a weak side. It has happened in Bangladesh’s game against New Zealand, and also Pakistan’s game against Sri Lanka. Both New Zealand and Sri Lanka were in comfortable positions, but gave away the game due to some inaccurate bowling and shoddy fielding. Mortaza’s men will hope that the Indians loosen up similarly, because Indian players in top form will be too much for them to handle.
Image courtesy: ICC Champions Trophy website