Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma has led from the front for India in the ICC Cricket World Cup Barring a duck against Australia in the first game, Sharma has been in fiery form setting up Indian wins with ease. Image Credit: AFP

India are on a roll, winning all their games in the Cricket World Cup 2023. On current form, they should prevail over Bangladesh in Pune today (October 19, Wednesday). But this is cricket, where uncertainties are glorious. Afghanistan and the Netherlands will tell us that. So India will want to avoid the setbacks of champions England and South Africa.

Captain Rohit Sharma has adequate reasons to be bullish about his team’s prospects against Bangladesh after three convincing wins. While India overcame a nasty scare against Australia, the victories over Afghanistan and Pakistan were fashioned with ease. The Australia game showed the resilience of the Indian batting, and the strength and depth of their bowling were evident in pinning the Afghans and Pakistanis to low totals.

Bangladesh’s recent ODI record against India

With their batting and bowling buzzing, India have every right to be confident when they square off against Bangladesh. But the team must guard against complacency since Shakib Al Hassan leads a team capable of upsetting India.

The sight of the Men in Blue always seems to spur Bangladesh, and they believe that they can beat India. And that belief is borne by their favourable 3-1 ODI record against India in the last 12 months. The latest was in the Super Four in the Asia Cup last month when India fielded a team without several regulars. Yet Bangladesh will take plenty of heart from that.

Now beating India in India is a tough ask. It’s their stomping ground, where tens of thousands pack the stadiums to the rafters. The full-throated support for the home team can be intimidating. Bangladesh have no idea of what awaits them: they last played an ODI against India in India 25 years back. None in the current team played that game at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium in 1998.

Shakib Al Hasan
Bangladesh are sweating on the fitness of captain Shakib Al Hassan. He’s the linchpin of the team as his batting and bowling are integral to the team’s fortunes.

Shakib Al Hassan is a doubtful starter

This is a new generation of Bangladesh players. Very talented but short on consistency. Shakib Al Hassan and Mustafizur Rahman ply their trade in the Indian Premier League; they are familiar with the conditions. But that’s not enough. A World Cup is a different beast; the pressures are different.

Bangladesh have beaten India in the ODI World Cup only once: 16 years ago in Trinidad in 2007. And that will likely remain unchanged. More so since their performances in this World Cup have hardly been inspiring. They have had two big losses against New Zealand and England but managed to subdue Afghanistan.

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These games revealed Bangladesh’s shortcomings. The batting relied heavily on Mushfiqur Rahim who struck two fifties in three matches, while Najmul Hossain Shanto and Litton Das managed one good knock each. Mustafizur was the pick of the bowlers, and the rest hardly made an impact. Moreover, they are unsure of Shakib Al Hassan, who’s been trying to shake off a quadriceps injury suffered last week.

So Bangladesh are not in fine fettle, and India should win in a canter. But they would be careful to avoid the third upset of the tournament. India’s mindset is reflected in bowling coach Paras Mhambrey’s words. “When you enter a World Cup, every team will pose you a challenge. So, from our perspective, I don’t think we’ll take anyone lightly.”

Over to Pune.