MELBOURNE, March 18: India go into their cricket World Cup quarterfil against Bangladesh as the clear favourites but they would surely not take their neighbours lightly when the two teams clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Thursday.
India have everything going for them. They are unbeaten in six Pool A games. They have big-match experience. They have won 10 World Cup matches on the trot, defeated Bangladesh in 24 of 28 One-Day Intertiols (ODI) played between the two, and are the defending champions and playing like one.
However, knowing they have nothing to lose, Bangladesh will come out all guns blazing and try and repeat what they did eight years back. The newest Test-playing tion beat India to oust the 1983 World Cup winners from the prelimiry stages of the 2007 edition.
Even though India have won 11 of their last 12 ODIs against Bangladesh, the latter could prove to be dangerous in the last-eight contest where the pressure will be on the defending champions to come out on top.
Playing their first knockout match in a top-flight Intertiol Cricket Council (ICC) tourment, Bangladesh deserved to go in to the last eight following their historic victory in Pool A over England. They also gave a tough fight to co-hosts New Zealand, who are also unbeaten in the tourment.
Both teams have played a match each at the MCG. While India defeated the mighty South Africans, Bangladesh were thrashed by Sri Lanka.
When it comes to the team, Mahmudullah has been Bangladesh’s prime batsman with at an average of 86 in five matches, scoring centuries in his last two matches.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim has also spent a lot of time out in the middle to gain confidence with three half-centuries and a highest score of 89, the second-highest scorer for Bangladesh after Mahmudullah.
When it comes to bowling, their pace attack has been competitive with Rubel Hossain and captain Mashrafe Mortaza bowling quick with plenty of movement.
And who can discount the ever-impressive Shakib Al Hasan, who has always come good whenever Bangladesh have needed him by cutting the run-flow and taking wickets at crucial moments. Shakib has also played his part with the bat, hitting two half-centuries against Afghanistan and Scotland.
On the other hand, India will have to leave behind all their good work and start afresh for the business-end of the tourment as one poor performance means they are out of the tourment in one jolt.
Though India’s batting has done well, their main reason of success has been their bowling — traditiolly considered their weak link. India have maged to bowl out all six opponents yet, taking all 60 wickets available in the event so far — an unprecedented achievement.
Led by Mohammed Shami, the pace attack has been most impressive. Shami (15) is the second highest wicket-taker of the tourment behind Australia’s Mitchell Starc, who has 16 scalps.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been crucial. He has been able to check the run rate of the opposition whenever skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has asked him to.
Also, Umesh Yadav and the inexperienced Mohit Sharma have regularly picked up wickets, bowling tight lines with improved accuracy to take wickets at the start and at the death.
The switch from New Zealand — where the bowlers went for a few runs because of smaller grounds — will also aid the bowlers, who did better in Australia.
India’s success has also been largely due to their batting. Fine contributions throughout the batting order have helped the batsmen back each other. When top-order batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli have scored, India have put up big totals on the board.
When the top-order failed, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Rai and Dhoni provided solidity lower down the order. Barring one or two players, everyone has contributed.
If Bangladesh want to succeed against India they will need to strike early. Also, Bangladesh’s familiarity with the Indian team could also help them.
But matching India’s fielding will be a task for Bangladesh, especially at the huge ‘G’ where coming in from the boundary and chasing a ball to the fence will be challenging for the Bangladeshi fielders. They had fumbled at the MCG while playing against Sri Lanka as they dropped catches and struggled with field placements.
The pitch is expected to be flat and full of runs but a reason to worry is the weather as some showers have been forecast. IANS