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By Tapan Mohanta
Fatullah : Feb 25, 2014
For the five-time champions India, the build up to the 12th edition of the regional tournament has been quite similar to that of 2012 when they landed here on the back of eight successive Test defeats in England and Australia.
Now they have come here after losing to South Africa 0-1 in Tests and 0-2 in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). They suffered similar humiliation at the hands of New Zealand. The world champion side capped their two overseas tours with four successive defeats in ODIs.
However, playing against an opponent, who are struggling with their own set of problems and against whom they enjoy a good record, India would hope to finally notch up their first win in the 2014 calender.
Bangladesh’s attacking opener Tamim Iqbal has been ruled out of the event because of a neck strain and their all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan will also miss the action against India due to his two-match ban for showing lewd gestures on live TV.
Fitness doubts also hang over veteran pacer Mashrafe Mortaza (swollen knee) while captain Mushfiqur Rahim is nursing an injured finger that had kept him out of the two T20Is against Sri Lanka earlier this month.
Adding to the woes, the host nation clearly did not give a happy picture with selection-related controversy marring their build-up. Skipper Musfiqur hit out at their chief selector for picking the squad without consulting him.
All this gives India a good chance to make a winning start even without the finishing abilities of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was ruled out due to a side-strain, and left-handed Suresh Raina.
Apart from the usual expectation of being the captain, Virat Kohli will also be the Indian batting mainstay as India would take solace from the fact that the stylish right hander’s average against Bangladesh is a staggering 122.
Kohli, who totals 732 with four hundreds and three fifties, was the leading run-getter in the last Asia Cup, including tournament’s highest 183 against Pakistan.
After being made the captain as Dhoni’s replacement for the first time in a tri-series in the West Indies also involving Sri Lanka, Kohli has one loss and seven wins under his belt.
But Asia Cup may prove to be his biggest challenge as games against Sri Lanka and especially Pakistan would be high pressure contests.
Test regular Cheteshwar Pujara will lend stability to the middle order but more than that India would want him to reinvent himself from the classical mould to suit to the demands of the shorter version.
With Kohli having adapted himself to No 3 and Ajinkya Rahane at No 4, it remains to be seen where the Saurashtra batsman is accommodated in the order., But as the tournament will proceed to the business end, India’s biggest worry will be to find somebody who is as dependable as Dhoni in crisis situations.
While many have seen Dinesh Karthik’s ability as a hard-hitting batsmen in the Indian Premier League (IPL), it’s time for him to prove himself in the One-Day format while there would be pressure on Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin down the order.
In such a scenario, India would look to make use of Stuart Binny to play the role of finisher, who at the same time can be handy with his medium pace bowling.
But overall, it would be an astounding feat for Kohli if India go all the way to retain their supremacy in the subcontinent’s mega tournament.
Last year’s runners-up Bangladesh have been the sub-continent’s perennial under achievers as they would approach the tournament to fulfill their Trophy drought.
This time, it won’t be easy though.Left-handed Tamim’s injury has left a big void in the batting department while Shakib’s absence from the matches against India and Afghanistan would make their final progression even tougher.
Imrul Kayes who has not played an ODI since December 2011 has been recalled as he would have to justify his selection.
In the bowling Shakib’s two game suspension will leave a void but it would be an opportunity to excel for left-armer Abdur Razzak who has emerged as a limited overs specialist with his tidy bowling.
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