Dhaka, Feb 18 (IANS) Qualitatively far ahead, India have the batting to overpower Bangladesh and settle scores with their nemesis of 2007 in the inaugural match of the Cricket World Cup here Saturday.
For Cup favourites India, it could well be a grudge game whereas a 28,000-capacity Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Haque stadium will be rooting for Bangladesh for an encore of their shock victory four years back that virtually knocked the 1983 holders out of the championship in the Caribbean.
Head-to-head, there is no contest. The World Cup co-hosts have clashed 22 times and India have won 20 of them. Apart from their 2007 World Cup win, Bangladesh’s only other success came way back in 2004-05 here.
Looking at the unpredictability of One-day cricket, no team can easily be written off and the team that plays better on the particular day can pull it off, regardless of the opponents’ reputation.
In what looks like the last World Cup for batting genius Sachin Tendulkar, who is yet to hold aloft the World Cup trophy despite five appearances, the Indians see their best chance and yet they are aware they cannot take it for granted. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been quietly reminding his team mates to guard against complacency.
Notwithstanding his team’s victories in both the World Cup practice matches against four-time champions Australia and New Zealand, Dhoni has maintained that the real challenge lay in replicating the performance Saturday.
“We have achieved whatever we wanted to and now, we have to replicate the effort in our first match against Bangladesh,” he said.
On paper, India have the world’s most explosive batting lineup. With players of the calibre of Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni, they would be on a song if they get going.
However, the somewhat lacklustre showing of the middle order in the series in South Africa that India lost 2-3 should serve as a reality check as it came after the 1-0 win over Australia and the 5-0 rout of New Zealand last year.
Dhoni is so confident about the team’s batting strengths that he even announced his batting order after Wednesday’s warm-up game. Young Virat Kohli is tipped to come at number four following Gambhir at three. That clearly puts a question mark over Suresh Raina’s place in the eleven.
“As of now, Virat has been showing good form and scoring runs coming in at No.4 which I think is a very important slot. If it is a choice between Raina and Kohli, then I think, Virat has an edge because he is in good form and scoring a lot of runs,” Dhoni said.
The dashing Yuvraj Singh, though yet to find his bearings, is likely to come at number five, followed by Dhoni at six. Yusuf Pathan could be coming in at number seven.
Pacer Zaheer Khan and off spinner Harbhajan Singh are certainties in the eleven with Piyush Chawla likely to make the cut if Dhoni opts for a double spin attack.
Dhoni has already indicated his preference for four bowlers, with part time left arm-spinner Yuvraj Singh likely to fill the fifth bowler’s slot to give more options to the team management.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, have the advantage of playing in familiar conditions at home before a highly partisan crowd at a time when cricket mania is sweeping the nation.
Bangladesh, playing in their fourth straight World Cup, have fond memories of the 2007 edition to motivate them. After stunning India in the group stage to reach the Super Eights, Bangladesh scalped formidable South Africa before going out of the reckoning.
The home side would bank on the versatility of skipper Shakib-al-Hassan — rated the world’s leading ODI all-rounder — as also the aggressiveness of left-hand opener Tamim Iqbal, flamboyant middle-order campaigner Mohammad Ashraful and experienced left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak.
The Bangladesh captain said kicking-off the campaign with a big ticket match against India would be good for the side.
“If we do well it will be a great start for us,” he said.
Their bowling, however, has been weakened by the absence of the injured Mashrafe Mortaza, and much would depend on young Shafiul Islam’s success with the new ball alongside Rubel Hossain.
As for the pitch, curator Badiul Alam Khokon has promised an ideal One-day wicket.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra and S. Sreesanth
Bangladesh: Shakib-al-Hassan (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Abdur Razzak, Mohammad Ashraful Suhrawadi Shuvo, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Mahmudullah, Naeem Islam, Raqibul Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Shahriar Nafees, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Hossain.
Umpires: Steve Davis (England) and Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka)
Third umpire: Billy Doctrove (West Indies)
Fourth umpire: Asad Rauf (Pakistan)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)