As India commenced its cricketing battle against Bangladesh in the second quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup, it will be reminded of the caribbean nightmare – unexpected defeat they faced at the hands of ‘minnows’ in 2007 World Cup. As anyone would understand, winning this game would mean entry into the semifinals, which will bring either of the teams closer to the Cup. However, that is where the similarity in significance ends for both the teams in question today. Bangladesh is a comparative lightweight and this is the first time it is playing in the knockout stage of the World Cup. In 2007, the team had played in the Super 8 stages but it was a league match, not a knockout one. So, this will be a different experience for Bangladeshi players.
The senior players, including Shakib Al Hasan, have said how they will enjoy the atmosphere considering they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They also feel that this will put pressure on India, an observation that is not far off the mark. A victory will also prove that the team is on the track to progress.
India is the world champion, and by virtue of that it is expected to win the game. A defeat will mean the end of the World Cup journey for MS Dhoni, who a la Sangakkara and Jayawardene, is unlikely to play international cricket much longer. However, the way India has played so far, its fans could rest assured that the team will be more eager than cowed down by the weight of a possible failure.
Effect of Conditions
The game will be played at Melbourne, which has a batting wicket with something in it for quick bowlers. One can expect the batsmen from both the teams to enjoy the conditions. Even the seamers would find the conditions favourable. The spinners will also come into play because they can make it hard for batsmen to clear the boundary, given the huge size of the ground.
Key Players for Both Teams
Bangladesh has shown in the World Cup that it is an emerging power. Among the batsmen, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim have been in sterling form. Shakib is a key contributor with both bat and ball and could once again have a decisive say on the game. The seamers led by skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, have been incisive as well. Both Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed have been generating good pace, which is an added advantage for Bangladesh.
For India, almost all the players in the top order will be crucial. Rohit Sharma, however, needs a big score and who knows he might make it in this game! In the bowling department, Shami and Mohit will be crucial as far as picking up wickets and stopping runs are concerned. If Umesh Yadav can maintain his shape, he will trouble the Bangladeshi batsmen with his extra pace. The spinners will also need to play a crucial role and for that they will have to put the Zimbabwe match behind them.
Windows of Opportunity
As far as areas of opportunity go, the top order of Bangladesh has not been in great form and Indian quicks need to utilise that aspect of the game. Discipline will be the key over here. Similarly, Bangladesh’s support bowling is not of a standard that Indian batsmen cannot dominate, even if they accord sufficient respect to the opening bowlers. They also need to remind themselves that their opponents have no prior experience of playing in a knockout stage.
As of now, India looks a clear favourite to win the game. For that, it has to execute all its skills and responsibilities well – something that it has already done admirably in this tournament. The team needs to keep its cool in crunch moment. It seems fairly capable of doing that.
However, cricket is a game of uncertainties. Even if India is defeated, its biggest takeaway from the World Cup would be the quality of cricket it has played throughout the tournament. It has once again made the Indian fans, even the not diehard ones, wait eagerly for their matches and madly want it to win. That, any rate, is the biggest victory for Indian cricket in this World Cup.
If India edges out Bangladesh and reaches semi-finals, much to the joy of its fans, it will position itself as a more formidable team to play against. We would love to see India gain that ‘invincible’ status as it inches closer to winning the World Cup.