Bangladesh vs India | Thursday 19 March | Melbourne | 05:30
Melbourne’s mammoth 90,000 seater stadium will likely be packed to the rafters for this subcontinental showdown. Indian supporters are Down Under in their droves while Bangladesh have a large enough expat population to make themselves heard. Only a complacent performance stands in the way of India marching through to the semi-finals and Bangladesh are well aware that in order to stage an upset, they’ll not only have to be at their best but hope for a bit of luck. It’s already admirable that they’ve made it this far into the tournament but going out on a good performance will not sting any less. Bangladesh will be playing to win.
To Win Match
Thursday’s quarter-final will mark the biggest day in the country’s cricketing history. Bangladesh dumped England out of the tournament to book their place in the knockout stages and similarly will look to catch India off-guard and progress further than was ever thought possible prior to the competition. Bangladesh have threatened to kick on at world tournaments for a few years now, making the final of 2012 Asia Cup among other so-called upsets. They were propelled into the quarter-finals chiefly by the bat of Mahmudullah, who now has two consecutive World Cup centuries batting at number four. Previously a number seven, Mahmudullah has come into his own with the added responsibility and can now count himself among the core group of match-winners in this side. Tamim Iqbal remains a danger at the top of the order despite a recent dip in form and new-comer Sarkar is confident in his role at number three. Shakib Al Hasan remains a menace with both bat and ball in hand and has plenty of knockout experience through his T20 endeavours that will serve both himself and the team well in Melbourne. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza are both seasoned campaigners and along with Iqbal and Shakib, represent a Bangladeshi contingent that have beaten India in a World Cup before. Queen’s Park Oval in 2007 hosted the famous victory and Bangladesh also beat India in the 2012 Asia Cup. But to put it all into perspective, Bangladesh have only won three of the 28 ODI contests between the two sides. They’ll be forced, as always, to bank on their more established opposition having a poor day while they must perform to their highest potential.
India faced their biggest test of the tournament to date in their last outing and the opposition could hardly have been more surprising. Zimbabwe were all out for 287 following a fantastic century by Brendan Taylor, his last match for his country. MS Dhoni was pleased that his side were put under pressure before the knockout stage and, most importantly, came through it unscathed. Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja were woeful and were blasted around the park by Taylor and Williams, which perhaps will force India to reconsider their options against a Bangladeshi side well-versed in playing spin. That is not to say that either of the two will be left out, but they may be deployed more conservatively by their captain. India’s pace attack has been their shining light so far. India have bowled out every side that they’ve faced in the tournament and their seamers have truly troubled batsmen. Mohammad Shami is the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with fifteen scalps and will be key to removing Bangladesh’s top-order threats. Against Zimbabwe, Suresh Raina and Dhoni combined with India in a wobble at 92/4. Their partnership ended on 196, only by virtue of winning the match. Raina was unbeaten on 110 and Dhoni was not out on 85 as India illustrated the perfect way to absorb pressure in a chase. Dhoni admitted that it was all about setting small targets along the way. Once one begins achieving those targets, the pressure becomes less and the confidence flows. If there is one department in which India do not lack, it’s confidence.
The MCG can be a rather daunting prospect for sides inexperienced with the sheer enormity of it all. Add to that the din caused by a voracious Indian supporter base and Bangladesh immediately begin on the back foot. AB de Villiers mentioned how disconcerting it was facing India at the MCG in the group stages and the scorecard certainly reflected it. Bangladesh failed to rise to the occasion in their group match with Sri Lanka, claiming only one wicket as their opponents piled on the runs. Rain is unlikely to affect the contest.
VERDICT: Top India Batsman, Virat Kohli 3/1
India will win this. They’re simply too strong a tournament side to allow for the complacency necessary for Bangladesh to get the better of them. It will probably be closer than many expect as Bangladesh are hungry for an upset. But ultimately I feel it is a step too far for the minnows. India are far too short to justify backing and I prefer the value on offer in backing Virat Kohli to top score for India. He’s yet to peak in this tournament and averages 126.50 against Bangladesh in six innings, with three hundreds and two fifties.