If India were in any doubt about just how much Bangladesh have improved as a one-day cricket side, they were made fully aware in a 79-run loss to their neighbors in the first match of their three-match one-day international series in Mirpur. On Sunday, India will return to the Shere Bangla National Stadium looking to avoid a defeat that would see them lose a series to Bangladesh for the very first time.
Indeed, in 29 previous matches between the sides played prior to last Thursday, Bangladesh had won on just three occasions. But Bangladesh are on the move, and, while they went down to India in the World Cup quarterfinals earlier this year, they thrashed Pakistan 3-0 in a ODI series in April. That success took Bangladesh above Pakistan in the world rankings, and they have now moved up to seventh, above the West Indies. One win from their next five ODIs would guarantee that Bangladesh qualifies for the 2017 Champions Trophy as one of the top-eight ranked countries.
That’s thanks to what was a supreme showing against India, off the back of half-centuries for Tamin Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar and Shakib Al Hasan as well as five wickets for Mustafizur Rahman. It was a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that, in contrast to past series between the countries, India is fielding a full-strength side, with the exception only of the injured Mohammad Shami.
“The best example [of the change in the Bangladesh team] is that India is sending their strongest team," Bangaldesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha said, reports ESPN. “It speaks for itself, how far we have come from that series to now. It is always good to gauge your success or what you are doing, by how your peers are looking at you. I think it is a big rap for our boys that India came with their full strength. Our confidence is high, the way we are playing now is also a bit different.”
The pressure is now firmly on India not to begin their current cycle, following a semifinal exit from the World Cup, with a humbling series defeat. In the first match there was particular disappointment in the early dismissal of star Virat Kohli, while too many of the bowlers, with the exception of Ravichandran Ashwin, failed to deliver. There are unlikely to be major changes, if any, to the team’s lineup, but opening batsman Rohit Sharma has stressed that India will be better equipped to handle Bangladesh’s threat on Sunday.
“They [Bangladesh] are playing some good cricket off late," he said, according to The Times of India. “We can't take any team for granted. With the current form with them, we have to be at our best. From our point of view, it's very important that we stick to our game plan. They have got nothing to lose. India have everything to lose. We have to extra careful in what we do. We understand that coming to their territory we expected them to play this way. But that is no excuse. As professionals we should be aware of the opposition's strengths and weaknesses. I am sure we will be more prepared in the next game.”
Match time: Sunday, 5 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Star Sports (India, Bangladesh)