The 2019 World Cup semi-final qualification scenario has become straightforward for the handful of teams remaining in the race.
England’s win over India in Birmingham on Sunday knocked Sri Lanka out of the reckoning and made the qualification route for Pakistan and Bangladesh that much tougher.
The equation will be straightforward for India and Bangladesh when they lock horns in Birmingham on Tuesday – a win for India will ensure their progress to the semis while a win for Bangladesh keeps the Tigers in the hunt.
The Tigers have given India a horrid time in limited overs cricket, especially in multi-team tournaments. Bangladesh knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup and competed well in defeats in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final and 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final.
India had to give it their all to secure last-ball wins against Bangladesh in the 2016 World T20 and the Nidahas T20 and Asia Cup finals last year.
Simply put, Bangladesh will fancy their chances against India, especially since the Tigers have a more settled and experienced team. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said he is confident of getting the better of India.
“Every time we have played India, they have mostly been better. The current side is very strong too. But we go to play at our best but you never know. If we reach 100 per cent then you never know,” Mortaza said.
“In sport, anyone can beat anyone. It will be very hard but we have to be at our best.”
Both teams are struggling with fitness issues to key personnel. India are already without Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar, who have suffered fractures. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has just recovered from a hamstring injury while keeper MS Dhoni took two nasty hits to the finger during the defeat to England.
Bangladesh too have their share of the walking wounded. Captain Mortaza’s hamstring is as good as gone, Mahmudullah is carrying shoulder and calf injuries while Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim suffered blows to the hand.
But given what is at stake, these veteran players are expected to take the field on sheer willpower.
Focus on pitch
The match will be played on the same strip where England beat India in a high-scoring game. Batting clearly became more difficult as the innings wore on and the team bowling second should have an advantage.
Both teams have excellent slow bowling options and it will be a case of win the toss, bat first and score as many as you can.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Liton Das, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman
Opening batsman Mayank Agarwal was named as replacement for injured all-rounder Vijay Shankar in India’s 2019 World Cup squad on Monday.
Shankar had injured his toe during training before the game against Afghanistan but went on to play that game and the match against the West Indies. But he sat out the game against England on Sunday, which India lost, with Rishabh Pant playing in his place.
It is the latest injury setback for India after regular opener Shihhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament due to a fractured finger. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar too is recovering from a hamstring injury.
Shankar’s place in the team has gone to Karnataka batsman Agarwal, who has played two Tests but is yet to play an ODI.
His selection has come as a surprise as experienced middle order batsman Ambati Rayudu had been waiting in the wings. Until last year, Rayudu was the first choice number 4 batsman and did reasonably well.
After he was omitted from the World Cup squad, with the selectors going for ‘three-dimensional’ talent of Shankar, Rayudu took to social media and talked about ordering ‘3D glasses’ for the World Cup. That post didn’t go down well with the Indian management.
With KL Rahul not setting the stage alight at the top of the order, Mayank might end up making his ODI debut in this World Cup. In that case, either Rahul, Pant or Kedar Jadhav will be forced to sit out.
India vice-captain Rohit Sharma said his team needed a Ben Stokes like innings during their chase against England to come out victorious.
England beat India by 31 runs in Birmingham on Sunday, with Stokes’ 79 off 54 balls taking the total to 337-7. India could only manage 306-5 despite a ton from Rohit.
“When you’re chasing around 340 runs you need that X-factor innings of someone coming in and playing 70 off 30 or 40 balls. Hardik (Pandya) was looking good (45 off 33 balls) but he just couldn’t go on. That is something Ben Stokes did for them. He came and changed the game. We needed somebody like Ben Stokes’ innings towards the end,” Rohit said.