Team India have endured a horrendous tour of Bangladesh, which could well see MS Dhoni and company return home without winning a single game.
The solitary Test match in Fatullah was affected by inclement weather throughout and only 184.2 overs of cricket was available across five days. India and Bangladesh have since been involved in a three-match One-Day International (ODI) series that has already been won by the home side, leaving the visitors to play for pride in the final one-dayer to be contested at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today.
Though the results, and the margin of them – a 79-run victory for the home side in the first game and a 6-wicket win in the series-clinching second ODI – have been surprising, there can be no denying that Mashrafe Mortaza and his troops have had the momentum from their last series against Pakistan, used it to their advantage and tactically been much more astute than their illustrious opponents.
The likes of Mustafizur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, to name a few, have contributed massively to their side winning its third consecutive ODI series at home, and from the visitors’ point of view, they simply have been devoid of such individual performances. Virat Kohli and Dhoni’s corresponding batting forms have been worrying to say the least, and India have not been able to cope with the lack of form of their two best batsmen in this format of the game.
The likes of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have scored a few runs in the two lost games, but, as aforementioned, lack of contributions from Kohli and Dhoni has had India’s batting lineup look significantly weak.
The Indian bowling attack fared exceptionally well at the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, where they took all 10 opposition wickets on 7 occasions, and it was only against Australia in the semifinals that they got hammered. The likes of Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma bowled with great rhythm and accuracy during the showpiece event, but their performances were way below par in the 1st ODI, which prompted Dhoni and the Indian think tank to drop them from India’s playing XI for the second game.
Axar Patel replaced Mohit, but couldn’t have the desired impact on proceedings. Dhawal Kulkarni was the other change in personnel in the Indian bowling attack for the 2nd ODI, but the Mumbai seamer, too, couldn’t weave his magic on what have been two sporting cricket surfaces in Mirpur.
Dhoni’s devils have failed as a unit, and that is the reason for their first-ever bilateral series defeat against Bangladesh, who, by way of winning this series, have sealed their place in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
The series’ scoreline reads 2-0 ahead of today’s final ODI, and from the visitors’ perspective, 1-2 will be much better than 0-3. They have to perform exceedingly well, though, to return home with at least one victory. Because the ‘Bangla Tigers’ are going to be determined to complete their third consecutive series whitewash at home, and if they manage to do one over India, it is sure to have the cricketing world sit up and take notice.
From the visitors’ point of view, with nothing but pride at stake, what should be the playing XI they must pick for the third and final ODI? Do they strengthen the batting or the bowling? And, finally, will Ajinkya Rahane come back into the playing XI after sitting out the 2nd one-dayer?
Rohit and Dhawan have been the only two Indian batsmen to score half-centuries in the series so far, and I just don’t think the team management should tinker with its opening combination that is Team India’s primary strength at the moment. There could be a case for Rahane to come into the side as an opener for this dead rubber, but India should prioritize winning the game, meaning they should play the Rohit-Dhawan duo that complements each other well and guarantees India a good start more often than not.
At No.3, despite his recent failures, Kohli should have no problems whatsoever in continuing as Team India’s designated batsman at that position. Bangladeshi bowlers have bowled well to him and dismissed him rather easily in each of the last three meetings between the sides, but the Delhi batsman, who looked good during his 27-ball 23 last Sunday, should challenge himself to come good.
Now, there is a certain degree of ambiguity surrounding India’s No.4: Dhoni batted in that position in the last ODI, but could neither help himself nor his team, as his 47 (75) slowed down the pace of the Indian innings and didn’t help their cause one bit. In his post-match media briefing, the 33-year old expressed his desire to make the No.4 position his own in the Indian ODI setup. Rahane’s place in the side probably depends on where Dhoni bats, and if the Indian ODI skipper looks to continue batting at No.4, the diminutive right-hander could well sit out this game, too. You can read Dhoni’s reasoning behind dropping the Mumbai batsman for the last game here.
Ambati Rayudu batted at No.5 in the second ODI, but there is no definite position in the Indian batting lineup for the Mumbai Indians’ batsman. His batting position could well depend on the state of the Indian innings, although I think he will be given another chance in the playing XI. Raina has had a couple of decent innings, but failed to convert his starts into big knocks, falling to Mustafizur in both the games. The Uttar Pradesh batsman could be India’s No.5 for today’s game.
I staunchly believe that this should be India’s batting lineup for today’s final ODI. The Indian batsmen need to negotiate the early phase of their innings safely, as they looked to have no clue in playing the 19-year old left-arm seamer in both the games. They also need to guard against losing wickets in clusters in the second half of their innings; doing so will only impede them from accelerating towards the end and putting up a competitive total, at least, on the board.
Dhoni opted to play three spinners in the 2nd ODI, but it just didn’t work out for him and India, as Bangladesh only needed 200 for victory and the Indian seamers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Dhawal – didn’t do enough early on to give the spinners a better platform to come and bowl.
Bangladesh batsmen have played all the Indian seamers with ease, and therefore, the pressure has solely been on the spinners to take wickets.
Ravichandran Ashwin has by far been India’s best bowler on tour, and looked likely to pick a wicket or two every time he has bowled. The home side was clever in the way it played the off-spinner in the second ODI, as they didn’t take any risks against him and instead, were happy to see him through without losing too many wickets.
The problem for India and Dhoni is that all other bowlers have gone for runs and it has been difficult to have any sort of control over the game. However, I thought the addition of an extra spinner, Axar, was not the way to go in the second one-dayer, especially when you have got someone like Ravindra Jadeja who is in the same mould as the Gujarat spinner. Talking of the Saurashtra all-rounder, given his recent struggles with both the ball and bat, I would be inclined to give him a break and inject Mohit, who can be trusted to do a job despite being taken to the cleaners in the 1st ODI.
Regardless of the changes in India’s bowling attack for today’s ODI, a lot will still depend on Ashwin and whether he can render wickets for the visitors. The Indian seamers have attempted plenty of variety in their bowling during this series so far, and such an inclination has been one of the reasons for them conceding so many runs. I would like to see them take a more sensible approach of bowling on a good length area and concentrate on hitting the right channels.
India’s ‘should be’ playing XI for the final ODI
MS Dhoni (C & WK), V Kohli, R Sharma, S Dhawan, S Raina, A Rayudu, R Ashwin, B Kumar, A Patel, M Sharma and D Kulkarni.
This should be another intriguing game, with India looking to win their first ODI after losing their last three on the trot. They need to be purposeful in their approach, and take the game to Bangladesh; they were a bit inhibited in the second ODI after being beaten by 79 runs in the first, but they can only win if they play freely and with the right kind of aggression.