ICL: Indian Cricket League

After the straight talk, spin could win


The first one-day international of this series can’t come soon enough for either team. For Bangladesh it offers a chance to prove that what happened at Port-of-Spain was no fluke. For India, a chance to prove that it was - and, equally importantly, an opportunity to get on with the game, to push non-cricketing issues back where they belong.

From the time they crashed out of the World Cup to developments on the eve of this match, India’s cricketers have been under the utmost scrutiny. Their endorsement clauses have been put under the scanner; their contracts with the board have not been finalised; their conditioning camp has been held in temperatures hovering around 38 degree Celsius and an equally high humidity factor - and it has been labelled “less intense”. Now, 36 hours before the first ball is to be bowled here, their selectors have been “stung” by a news channel into saying the team is a divided lot and that the captain doesn’t enjoy the support of the senior players.

A full-fledged cricket match, even if in these sultry climes, will be a huge relief. Rahul Dravid, the captain, said they don’t take off-field issues with them to the playing field. What they will worry about, though, is the absence of Manoj Tiwary, whose debut was eagerly awaited. He had injured himself during a fielding practice session on Tuesday and has been ruled out of his debut series. RP Singh and Piyush Chawla are the other two to sit out the first game.

That opens up a string of possible batting combinations. If Virender Sehwag opens, either Gautam Gambhir or Robin Uthappa is likely to be 12th man. If Sehwag bats lower down the order, one Dinesh - Mongia or Karthik - might have to sit out, unless Karthik opens the innings, which he is not likely to. Mongia looks an almost certainty, with his left-arm spin making him a part of India’s fifth bowler combination, given that there are no allrounders in the team.

Bangladesh, though currently a more stable side, also have an injury problem to sort out. It’s one they should be quite familiar with by now - Mashrafe Mortaza, their premier fast bowler, has sustained a back injury that might keep him out of tomorrow’s game. Habibul Bashar, the captain, said there was a slim chance he might make it but in any case the team management didn’t appear too worried and said they would take a call on his fitness on Thursday morning.

One reason for this, of course, is that Mortaza has come through more serious injuries. Speaking to Cricinfo at the World Cup, he’d listed out the injuries he’s sustained through his career: “Left knee, three operations; right knee, one operation; back, stress fracture - it’s better now but still gives some trouble - some shoulder problems; ankles, damaged ligaments twice.”

The wicket at the Mirpur Stadium has a dry look; half an hour of rain today should not have any effect on the nature of the wicket. There are cracks visible even from far but they don’t appear too significant and are unlikely to open up during the course of the game. Dravid expects it to grip, which makes the Bangladesh spin trio crucial. Having kept India’s batsmen on a tight leash at the World Cup, they should prove a handful on this wicket.

On the batting front, Javed Omar is likely to get the nod ahead of Shahriar Nafees as the opening partner to Tamim Iqbal, who had stunned India at Port-of-Spain. Bangladesh will look for their middle-order batting duo of Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed to come good. They have long promised but are yet to deliver consistently.

Ashraful, who will become the youngest Bangladeshi to play 100 ODIs tomorrow, acknowledges as much, saying, “I know that my average should have been better.” He has also been appointed the vice-captain, which should put more responsibility on him. His will be a crucial role if Bangladesh are to capitalize on a weak Indian fifth-bowler combination.

Bashar feels the wicket should keep low and slow. It should not be a surprise if the side winning the toss bats first.

The ground’s drainage looks good, evident from the way it dried up within an hour of the showers. It has rained twice over the last three days, but unless there are really heavy rains, the game should see the full length.

Ravi Shastri has said his team have a point to prove, Dravid has said they are keen to start. Bashar has said that it is good India have come prepared. More than enough has been said before a series between a side that effectively finished seventh in the World Cup and one that exited in the first round itself. It’s now time for action.

BangladeshHabibul Bashar (capt), Mohammad Ashraful (vc), Abdur Razzak, Aftab Ahmed, Farhad Reza, Javed Omar, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Rafique, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Saqibul Hasan, Shahadat Hossain, Shahriar Nafees, Syed Rasel, Tamim Iqbal

India Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid (capt), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Dinesh Mongia, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth and Gautam Gambhir

Source:Cricket News

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