A lot has been said and written about Bangladesh’s borderline obsessive rivalry with India. It’s a feeling of having to prove a point every time the two teams meet that’s perhaps not even felt so strongly by the cricket team as it is by their passionate fans. But so fierce has this obsession for comeuppance against India become it’s only understandable that it ends up seeping into the players’ approach.
That’s been the worrying sign for Bangladesh in all their clashes against the neighbours ever since India became their must-beat opponent following the temperamental World Cup quarterfinal clash in 2015. It’s led to every one of their players, starting with Tamim Iqbal to the tail, often coming so hard at the Indians from the beginning that it’s led to them self-imploding. Like it did all over again on Thursday, resulting in yet another collapse, and yet another defeat against the one team that they simply cannot stand losing to but keep losing to.
The script couldn’t have played out more predictably. India won the toss and put Bangladesh in to bat first. Their top-order went for the kill with no fall-back option in sight from the word go and threw their wickets away. The early collapse restricted them to a mediocre 139/8. India chased it down with little fuss. And of course it was Shikhar Dhawan who led the way with a sparkling half-century. But if you wanted to get a glimpse of just how desperate the Bangladeshis have gotten to score a victory, even if only a brief one, over the Indians you just had to see their celebrations following the fall of every wicket, even if it came in the dying moments of the match when India were more or less already home. There was but only one irregularity to the setting, something that neither the Indians nor their opponents are used to. That they played out in front of a near-empty stadium.
It would, however, be unfair to attribute Bangladesh’s disappointing performance entirely to their failure to get their focus and priorities right. The pace attack with all its variations played an integral role in it too, and so did the two spinners. In fact, it was Washington Sundar who made life difficult for the Bangladeshis early on. Iqbal and Saumya Sarkar were in a hurry, so Sundar slowed it down. He made them come for him, and it derailed the momentum the two left-handers so desperately sought before they even got sight of it.
It was Jaydev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur, who combined so well for Rising Pune Supergiant last year in the IPL, who drew early blood though. Unadkat’s normal-speed deliveries end up being the surprise delivery. It was one those surprise deliveries that got Sarkar as he tried to whip it to the on-side. Thakur had Iqbal with a sharp short delivery. Two of Bangladesh’s four key men were already gone.
It was Vijay Shankar who accounted for the other two. He might be classified as a medium-pacer at most, but the Tamil Nadu all-rounder has the ability to generate awkward bounce from the surface. It’s this skill that did both Mushfiqur Rahim and skipper Mahmudullah in. Rahim came charging out and slashed but the ball rose just that much more than he expected and caught a faint outside-edge. Mahmudullah looked to power a length delivery over the off-side in-field but got the ball struck the top half of his bat and flew only as far as Thakur at sweeper cover. Shankar could have done more damage if not for India’s shockingly abysmal catching in an otherwise perfect display of overall cricket. His two wickets in two overs left Bangladesh tottering at 72/4. They never recovered.
Yuzvendra Chahal has already shown that he blows hot and cold in T20 cricket. It was one of his better days as he choked the Bangladeshis to thwart any chances of them breaking free. He went for 9 runs in his first over but finished with figures of 1/19 in four overs, besides nailing innings top-scorer Liton Das with a lovely, loopy leg-break. Unadkat then returned to flaunt his command with the ball at the death. He happily snared himself two more victims to finish with 3/38 while Thakur was equally effective, giving away only five runs in the final over of the innings. That Bangladesh ended up facing 57 dot deliveries in their 20 overs was another sign of how they seem to lose the plot in this quest to out-muscle India without laying out a proper plan.
India’s plans in pursuit of 140 were rather straightforward. They did try an experiment by sending Rishabh Pant at No.3 after Rohit Sharma fell cheaply. But Pant ended up taking a leaf out of the Bangladeshi approach and succumbed like them too for an awkward 8 off 9 balls. Dhawan though was his free-flowing self and got assistance from Suresh Raina first and then Manish Pandey, who finished the match off with a bunch of eye-catching boundaries.