When India’s cricket team traveled to Bangladesh last June and came away with their first ever series defeat against their neighbors in any format, the prospects for their limited-overs side and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in particular, looked bleak. Dhoni had achieved huge success, famously leading India to World Cup glory on home soil in 2011. But his decision to step away from Test cricket at the end of 2014 to concentrate on cricket’s shorter formats failed to provide anything like the immediate success he will have envisaged.
India relinquished their World Cup title at the semifinal stage in 2015, before three months later came the ignominious 2-1 reversal to Bangladesh. That defeat prompted Dhoni into stating that he was willing to relinquish the captaincy if it would aid his team. While he remained at the helm, results got no better before the year was out, with India losing at home to South Africa in both one day international and Twenty20 international series.
With the World Twenty20 upcoming on home soil, India were in a rough spot. Yet just as they faced their toughest test they mounted a spectacular turnaround. Last month India became the first ever team to whitewash Australia in a T20 series on their own pitches, before following it up with a series win over Sri Lanka. With the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in commanding form at the top of the batting order, and emerging bowling talent Jasprit Bumrah joining spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to form a strong attack, India are back on top of the T20 world.
But for India the real business only really gets going on Wednesday. For the first time, this year’s Asia Cup will take place in the Twenty20 format, providing, not only the chance for silverware, but ideal preparation for the World T20 next month. Perhaps fittingly, India’s quest starts with an opening Asia Cup meeting with the hosts and the team that marked arguably the lowest point of Dhoni’s reign, Bangladesh.
“I have the belief in this team and that it has all the talent required to win a big tournament,” Dhioni said on Tuesday before the team’s departure to Bangladesh. “This team has all the ingredients. What will be important is to keep the team fit and at the same time try to give as many games to all the individuals who are part of the side. A lot of that will depend on where we are positioned in the tournament, in the Asia Cup especially. Ultimately you have to go and do well on the field.”
The biggest selection question heading into Wednesday’s opening game in Dhaka is whether Dhoni himself will make the lineup. The 34-year-old has been suffering from back spasms in recent days and will face a late fitness test, with Parthiv Patel having been called in to the squad as a potential replacement.
It is not just their defeat in Bangladesh last year that should give India cause to avoid any complacency going into Wednesday’s match. Over the past 12 months, Bangladesh have also produced impressive home series victories over Pakistan and South Africa. Yet those wins came over 50 overs, with the results in cricket’s shortest format being far less impressive. In T20s, Bangladesh have lost to South Africa and last month could only draw 2-2 against Zimbabwe at home.
“What we can do is not to worry about any failure, but play cricket,” captain Mashrafe Motaza said ahead of tournament. “We had been unsuccessful at this format of the game, that doesn’t mean we can never do well here. At this moment, what is needed is to do is go and play in the field and not think about what is going to happen.”
Bangladesh will be without opening batsman Tamin Iqbal for the tournament due to the imminent birth of his first child. But they will be able to call upon the services of the team’s one undoubted star, Mustafizur Rahman, who took 11 wickets against India in Bangladesh’s two ODI victories last year.
Match Time: 8:30 a.m. EST
Live Stream Info: YuppTV