India v Bangladesh: Shikhar Dhawan, Khaleel Ahmed feeling the heat ahead of T20I series decider in Nagpur

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Dhawan's (L) strike-rate has been falling. Image credit - BCCI/Twitter.

While smog and a cyclone threat hovered over the previous two T20I clashes between India and Bangladesh, clear skies are expected to greet the two teams when they meet in the series decider in Nagpur on Sunday.

The series is currently locked at 1-1 after Bangladesh recorded their maiden T20I win over India in Delhi before the hosts stormed back in style in Rajkot to level matters.

The Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur has played host to 11 T20Is previously, although only one of them has surprisingly featured India.

That was a low-scoring encounter against England in January 2017 with the hosts notching up a narrow five-run win.

Bangladesh’s shot at historic series win

Bangladesh on the verge of making history. Image - BCB/Twitter.

Bangladesh on the verge of making history. Image – BCB/Twitter.

Having registered their first win over India in the T20I format, Bangladesh now possess the chance of attaining a historic series victory against their subcontinent neighbours. The Tigers have historically struggled in the shortest format of the game with only one outright series win  in their last 13 attempts.

That rare series win (2-1) came against West Indies last year and they will hope to repeat those exploits in India’s own backyard as they bid to affirm their T20 credentials. The visitors arrived for the tour after weeks of drama back home, with player strikes and a suspension for star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan interrupting their preparations.

Despite also missing the services of veteran opener Tamim Iqbal, the Tigers have shown, in the series opener at least, that they are still more than a match for the Indians. The loss in Rajkot was a comprehensive one for Mahmudullah’s men, however, they will fancy their chances on a Nagpur track which could play to their strengths due to its traditional slow nature.

Dhawan, Khaleel under the spotlight for India

The clock is ticking down on Khaleel (l).

The clock is ticking down on Khaleel (l).

As India search for their first home T20I series win of 2019, the spotlight will be on Khaleel Ahmed who has been highly expensive with the ball so far. The young left-arm seamer brings something different to the table for India but his eight overs in the two T20s against Bangladesh have leaked 81 runs.

The 21-year-old hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his wicket-taking ability either, with just the two scalps taken. As India look to seal a series triumph, the axe is very likely to fall on Khaleel with the option of Shardul Thakur waiting on the bench.

Meanwhile, opener Shikhar Dhawan has racked up scores of 41 and 31 in the two clashes although his strike-rate has left plenty to be desired. The left-handed opener was striking the runs at a rate of almost 150 in T20Is last year, but it has drastically dropped down to 110 in 2019.

His near run-a-ball approach has meant that his opening partner Rohit has had to step up the ante, and to his credit, the stand-in India skipper has more often than not delivered. Still, with India’s team management constantly harping about adopting an attacking T20 approach, Dhawan will need to step it up sooner rather than later.

Rohit puts his faith in Pant

Pant's erratic shot selection has been under the scanner.

Pant’s erratic shot selection has been under the scanner.

With Sanju Samson being handed a rare India call-up for the series, all eyes have been on Rishabh Pant with the young wicketkeeper’s spot in the playing XI firmly under the scanner. While his erratic shot-selection has been the subject to plenty of scrutiny in the last few months, Pant has now come under criticism for his shoddy glovework as well.

His botched stumping of Liton Das in the second T20 raised further eyebrows over his wicketkeeping skills, which honestly haven’t been the most polished since he made his India debut. However, the continuous spotlight on him has irked Rohit, who has asked Pant’s critics to lay off the youngster.

“You know there is a lot of talk happening about Rishabh Pant every day, every minute,” Rohit said on the eve of the final T20I.

“I just feel that he needs to be allowed to do what he wants to do on the field. I would request everyone to keep their eyes away from Pant for a while. He is a young guy, 22, trying to make a mark in international cricket. Every move he makes on the field, people start talking about him.

“He is a fearless cricketer and we want him to have that freedom. And if you guys take your eyes off him for some time, it will allow to perform even better.”

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