Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-With two back-to-back T20I series wins, a spirited India enter the last phase of their preparations for next month’s ICC World Twenty20 with the Asia Cup opener against hosts Bangladesh at Mirpur’s Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on Wednesday.
Though India look a force to reckon with, the only concern that the Men in Blue face is with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who skipped practice on Monday due to a muscle spasm, reports the IBN Live.
The BCCI sprung into action at once and flew in Parthiv Patel as backup.
For the first time in history, the Asia Cup will not be played as a 50-over competition, but will instead be a T20 affair – a decision taken by the Asian Cricket Council to help the region’s teams prepare for the world title.
But if the tittle to follow happens to be the ODI World Cup, the Asia Cup will return to its original format.
So it will be flexible from this 14th edition onward.
India blanked hosts Australia 3-0 at the start of the year before returning home for a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka.
The team will look to continue the winning momentum when they meet their neighbours Bangladesh.
The hosts have taken giant strides in international cricket in the last year and a half and are not an easy nut to crack when playing at home.
Bangladesh have built a reputation of being the giant-killers on more than one occasion.
In fact, the last time India visited there, they suffered an unexpected and first ever ODI series defeat.
With the embarrassing defeat still fresh in their minds, India won’t drop their guard as one defeat can cost big in this five-team competition played in round-robin format, where teams finishing in the top two play the final on March 6.
The India-Bangladesh ODI series last year saw the emergence of left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahaman, who broke the back of the famed Indian batting line-up with his variations and this will be a perfect opportunity for Dhoni’s men to return him the favour.
With the tournament being a dress rehearsal for the World T20, Dhoni had earlier indicated that he would try and give all 15 members in the squad some valuable match practice, which will give Pawan Negi a chance to show his skills and Harbhajan Singh to get a game after being on the bench for last six T20Is.
The batting order looks settled with the proven combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma at the top of the order. Virat Kohli, who was rested for the Sri Lanka T20Is at home, comes back at No. 3.
Limited-overs specialist Suresh Raina should be No. 4, followed by veteran Yuvraj Singh, who might be playing his last Asia Cup.
Captain Dhoni, followed by allrounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja make it a formidable batting unit.
The bowling line-up, led by offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin, medium-fast bowlers Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah have combined well so far and are sure to give the Bangladesh batsmen a run for their money.
Bumrah, however, did not train on Monday and according to the team management was a “little under the weather and was advised rest”.
Dhoni has Bhuvneshwar Kimar in the bank should he be needed. He replaced Mohammed Shami, who has been ruled out still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Ashwin’s superiority in the sub-continent pitches makes him a natural leader of the attack and the team will hope that the Tamil Nadu bowler lives up to his billing.
After a not-so-impressive performance in the ODI series in Australia, Ashwin hit the groove in T20Is with 13 wickets in six matches (3 each against Australia and Sri Lanka).
In the series against Sri Lanka, he was at his best, grabbing nine wickets with a career-best of 4 for 8 in the decider in Visakhapatnam.
The pace combo of Nehra and Bumrah make the fast bowling attack a blend of experience and youth.
Nehra, who made a comeback to the team at the age of 37, has plenty of experience while Bumrah too has shown his ability in the recent T20 series and with an unorthodox action, he can mesmerize the batsmen – besides having a decent yorker.
On the other hand, the hosts have impressed one and all in the recent months and have been ably led by skipper Mashrafe Mortaza.
They have impressed with both bat and ball and have been able to nurture talents like Mustafizur who has already started creating ripples in world cricket.
Bangladesh have a nice blend of experience and youth with veterans Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim still going strong.
The hosts’ strength is their bowling attack with pacers Mustafizur, Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain expected to pose a stiff challenge to the Indian batsmen while seasoned campaigners like Mortaza and Shakib will be the guiding forces behind the team.
Their batting will revolve around Rahim, young southpaw Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah, who scored his country’s first ever World Cup hundred and helped them reach the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup.
Dhoni’s men, this, will be wary of the fact that Bangladesh have match winners in their side and in front of vociferous home fans, they are more than capable to pull off a surprise.