Opening Salvo: India vs Bangladesh is no grudge match

18 Feb 2011 by Raj in ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
Virendra Sehwag

Virendra Sehwag

It is being touted by a number of Indians, including Virender Sehwag, as a revenge game. However, MS Dhoni and his men would do well to concentrate on playing proper cricket, like they would have done if they were facing another side. Of course, the shock loss against Bangladesh still haunts the men in blue. However, in an effort to go the extra mile keeping the grudge in mind, they might find themselves in trouble again. Looking back, one must except that the Indians were highly overconfident four years back. Sehwag, himself, was one of the culprits, who woke up the Bangla tigers by reminding them of the then ensuing India’s tour of Bangladesh, when the ICC Cricket World Cup had not even begun. And, as the cliché goes, the rest is entrenched in history. While it is good for the Indians that they are more alert this time round, it shouldn’t result in them giving over importance to the game just like the entire unwanted hullabaloo around how and why India should win the cup for Sachin Tendulkar.

On paper, India are definitely the stronger of the two sides. In fact, when it comes to the batting department, they are better than most sides in the tournament. Having said that, the opening game would be played at Mirpur in Bangladesh, which will undeniably give the home side a distinct advantage. And this is where the fact that they have beaten India in the past in a Cricket World Cup game will be of great help to Bangladesh. After all, nothing beats experience when it comes to the big stage. India will need to be wary once again, but the good news for them is that with Dhoni at the helm of affairs, the current squad, with all due respect to Rahul Dravid, looks a lot more settled and balanced than the wearing bunch of 2007.

Key contests

Sehwag vs Bangladesh opening bowlers

This contest could go a long way in deciding the fate of the match. Back in 2007, Sehwag failed to give India the much needed brisk start. Also, there was no Gautam Gambhir around to steady the innings and the rest just capitulated under pressure. Sehwag is very much aware of the added responsibility this time around. And with Gambhir and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order, he can go all out in an effort to decimate the Bangladeshis at home. If he comes of well enough the so-called revenge will automatically take shape. And even if he fails, India have enough firepower to fight back. However, it is a fact that a Sewhag special always tilts the scales in India’s favour. And so, the team management would do well to not cloud his thoughts with too many things and let his mind be free of the worries of losing his wicket. If Sehwag cuts loose and the Bangladeshis do not have a backup plan, they would be in serious trouble.

Indian middle order vs Bangla spinners

If India get off to a smashing start, then they have the wherewithal to pile on the agony for Bangladesh in the middle overs. And, even if they lose early wickets, there is enough depth in their batting to aid them overcome a poor start. Still the contest between the Indian middle order and the spinners of the home team promises to be an intriguing one. This is because at home, the Bangladeshi tweakers are equally effective as any other in the world. When the conditions are in their favour, they can be ruthless. Remember, on a sluggish pitch in the Caribbean four years ago, they strangled even the strong South African side. And hence, India need to tread this path carefully. In Abdur Razzak and skipper Shakib Al Hasan, they have two genuinely good, wicket-taking spinners. And with the home support to back them, they could be doubly dangerous. This is where Yuvraj Singh’s role could be particularly crucial. He isn’t having the best of times and neither is he the best player of spin. But, he is experienced enough now to get his act right on the big stage. Virat Kohli, who is expected to make the final eleven ahead of Suresh Raina, is another vital cog for India in the middle-overs. He has the dual ability to rotate the striking freely with lightning running between the wickets and also pierce the gap on crucial occasions. And thus, Kohli’s success or failure could end up having a major impact on the eventual result.

Slog success

Ideally, India would want Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan out in the middle during this stage of the innings, the latter more so. Not only is Pathan in form, but he is also high on confidence following the success in South Africa, which no one believed he could achieve, at least to the extent he did. And with Dhoni too showing his true colours during the practice game against Kiwis, it would be a genuine treat to watch them together, purely as a great cricketing experience, irrespective of the team one is supporting. Again, this could be a highly defining phase of the game.

Indian opening bowlers vs Bangla openers

This is where India lost it four years ago, and this is where they could get into trouble again. Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar struggled in 2007 and let the Bangla openers get off to a flying start, which eventually sealed the fate for India. While Zaheer has matured since, the same cannot be said about his current bowling partners. S. Sreesanth can blow hot or cold depending upon his mood while Ashish Nehra has the tendency to come up with a shocking bowling performance every now and then. This will be India’s major not only in the opening game but for the remainder of the tournament as well. However, it will be important to start well and thus the Mirpur game assumes greater significance.

Clearly, the contest that will most probably decide the match.

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