After three gruelling, uninterrupted days of cricket, the Indian team finally enjoyed a well-deserved two-day break. And as we approach the first inconsequential match of the Asia Cup on Friday, some players are poised to receive additional rest. The India vs Bangladesh Super 4 contest marks the first fixture of the Asia Cup with nothing at stake. India has already secured their spot in the final, where they will face Sri Lanka, who clinched their berth by defeating Pakistan in a rain-curtailed match yesterday. Bangladesh, unfortunately, have been eliminated from contention. Nevertheless, the excitement surrounding this match is palpable, driven solely by the fierce rivalry that has intensified between India and Bangladesh in recent years.
In December of last year, Bangladesh secured a victory over India in a home ODI series – only their second such triumph in seven years. Additionally, they came close to clinching a win against India at the T20 World Cup. And make no mistake, they will come firing on all cylinders. The weather is once again touch and go, but the game is definitely on. Despite the absence of Mushfiqur Rahim due to personal reasons and the likelihood of some key Indian players sitting out for workload management, this one promises to be a banger.
First thing’s first. With the World Cup approaching, today’s game is a chance for India to test its bench strength. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill have all got runs, while Ishan Kishan has played two courageous knocks appears to be solidifying his place in the Indian XI for the coming cycle. KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah have more than proven their fitness and Kuldeep Yadav continues to prove why the selectors preferred him over Yuzvendra Chahal. Hence, with nothing left to test, the Indian team could wear a different look when either Rohit or Hardik Pandya announces the Playing XI.
The management is set to give Suryakumar Yadav a go in place of Kohli and expect him to unleash on Bangladesh. Surya, who has been the focal point of the T20I vs ODI form debate, is sure to get a crack at Bangladesh, and it is hoped that this will mark a significant stride in adapting to the one-day format. Partnering him at No. 4, will be Shreyas Iyer, who missed the last two matches due to back spasms but really sweat it out in the nets the day prior to the game. Iyer batted the longest among all Indian batters in the nets and although he started off a little stiff, by the time he was done, he looked to have recaptured the form that made him India’s top ODI run-scorer in 2022.
Bumrah could make way for Shami. With a big final awaiting, it only makes sense for India to give its premier pacer a breather, given the two devastating opening spells he bowled against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Honestly, those new ball bursts were even more impressive than the vintage Bumrah performances, which is why India would bank on a repeat of it on Sunday against Sri Lanka. Shami has had limited game time in this series, having bowled just 7 overs for figures of 1/29 against Nepal. Furthermore, he hasn’t seen much action lately, with his last game before the Asia Cup dating back to the World Test Championship final against Australia. The management would be hoping for Shami to get a longish outing and get in the groove.
Axar Patel is expected to get one more game, keeping Shardul Thakur out of the XI. On a spin-assisted wicket in Colombo, Axar was the only bowler who went wicketless, and alarmingly, looked the least threatening of the spinners as Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage took him on. With certain ex-cricketers such as Salman Butt and Anil Kumble questioning his selection in India’s World Cup squad, can Axar prove them wrong?
India’s Probable Playing XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Ishan Kishan (WK), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Mohammed Siraj