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India go into Bangladesh ODI series with one eye on next year’s World Cup

Rohit & Co back in subcontinent as they attempt to find pieces of jigsaw looking ahead to 50-over showpiece event

Indian captain Rohit Sharma and Bangladesh skipper Liton Das with the trophy for the three-match ODI series. (BCCI)

Since the combination of captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid took over after the 2021 T20 World Cup, India have played 21 ODIs, the joint-highest for a Test side along with the West Indies in this period. Of course, almost all of these games slipped under the radar in a T20 World Cup year, but not anymore.

After the three-match away series against Bangladesh starting on Sunday, India have at least 12 more ODIs lined up at home, plus potentially half a dozen more in the next Asia Cup in similar conditions, as they build up to the 2023 World Cup which they will host.

After the recent ODI series in New Zealand that was hampered by rain, stand-in skipper for the tour Shikhar Dhawan had said that all these upcoming ODIs in South Asian conditions, starting with the Bangladesh series, would be a more “practical” way to prepare for the World Cup. Dhawan’s point is bolstered by India’s recent past; of the 21 ODIs they have played under this team management, only six have been at home, and all the rest have in fact been played outside Asia – in South Africa, England, West Indies, Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

Also, the Bangladesh tour is the first time captain Rohit and former captain Virat Kohli will be playing ODI cricket since the England tour in July. Another first-choice player, KL Rahul, hit by one injury or another and workload-managed as well, has played a mere six ODI innings since as far back as March 2021. So it will be after quite some time that India will have at their disposal a more-or-less first-choice ODI batting line-up of Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rahul and Rishabh Pant, with the exception of the rested Hardik Pandya and, arguably, Suryakumar Yadav.

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Given this fact, it remains to be seen what kind of opportunities the likes of Ishan Kishan, Rahul Tripathi and Rajat Patidar get. Considering there has been only a three-day gap between the end of the New Zealand tour and the first ODI in Dhaka, there could be a case for giving some of the fringe players a go on Sunday, and the regulars – Dhawan, Iyer and Pant – who have flown in from Christchurch – could play the remaining two matches. It was considering this short interval between the two away series that the selectors had picked a 17-man squad for Bangladesh, as the now-outgoing chief selector Chetan Sharma had informed then.

There will be more opportunities available on the bowling front, with Mohammed Shami’s injury now added to the continued absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja. The wrist-spin pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav is not part of this trip as well, with the finger-spin of Axar Patel and Washington Sundar expected to be effective on the slow pitches in Bangladesh. Again, with pacers Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar and Umran Malik flying in from New Zealand, will Kuldeep Sen get an opportunity on Sunday? And if and when Umran Malik plays, how potent will he be on these surfaces?

The Indian attack is coming off a poor ODI series in New Zealand. They were blown away by Tom Latham and Kane Williamson in Auckland, unable to exert much pressure while defending 306. They had only 219 to work with in Christchurch, but on a helpful track, were again ineffective as New Zealand moved to 104 for 1 in 18 overs before rain ended the match.


No walkover

Conditions will be vastly different in Bangladesh, but the opponents could be no less tricky. Bangladesh do not get enough credit for having built up a formidable ODI record at home over the past decade or so – they have lost just one series since 2014. On India’s last trip there, back in 2015, they lost the ODI series 1-2.

Rohit is well aware of the challenge the hosts could pose. “In the last 7-8 years, the Bangladesh team has been a different team, a very challenging team. We have not had easy wins against them. We have had to play good cricket to win against them and every time we played them, it has been a close game. Even in the T20 World Cup, it was a close game,” Rohit said ahead of the series opener.


“And we lost the 2015 series last time we were here. By no means do we come here thinking that it is going to be a cakewalk for us. We know they are a good team, a very improved team in the last few years, so we will have to play good cricket to win this. It is not going to be easy for us.”

Even without the presence of the injured Tamim Iqbal and Taskin Ahmed, Bangladesh have the services of veterans Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah in the middle order. Liton Das, who had India worried in the T20 World Cup with a sparkling knock, will lead in Tamim’s absence, and the crafty Mustafizur Rahman, who announced himself to the world with a five-for on debut against the Indians in 2015, will lead the bowling attack.

With a series win against the neighbours in their backyard no longer guaranteed, especially in this format, India have some work to do. At the same time, they also have the World Cup at the back of their minds, but Rohit said that it was important not to get too caught up just with the ultimate goal. “The World Cup is still 8-9 months from now. We cannot think so far ahead. We will keep an eye on what we need to do as a team, where we need to improve,” he said.

“I think it is important for us to not start thinking about too many things – the World Cup, this is the combination, that is the combination, we need to play this guy, that guy. Me and coach have a fair idea as to what we want to do and we will narrow it down once we get closer to the World Cup. But we do want to play good cricket till we come close to the World Cup.”

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 20:26 IST
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