India vs Bangladesh preview: Mithali’s inconsistent side up against fast improving neigbours

India (R) Bangladesh (L) © Getty Images

The second game of tomorrow’s double header will see the last edition’s runners-up India cross swords with Bangladesh at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Tuesday, March 22. Both sides are coming into the fixture on the back of defeats in their previous matches.

What’s at stake

Both sides are still in contention to make it to the semi-finals and hence the game on Tuesday is a must win for the two teams. While Bangladesh have clearly punched above their weight with the way they have played thus far, India, on the other hand, have been far from consistent.

Inconsistent India

Mithali Raj’s side was really good with the bat in their last game against Australia. Despite losing both their openers early. the other Indian batters steadied the ship and made sure that the side reached a good score (277 runs). The Indian batting has clicked in most of the games this tournament. But they have been guilty of losing wickets early on in their innings. They tried Deepti Sharma up the order but it didn’t work out. They also opened with Yastika Bhatia but that too didn’t work out well in their favour.

And that’s where they have missed the trick. India could have sent Harmanpreet Kaur up the order to let her consolidate but they haven’t done that. With 256 runs at an astounding average of 64.00, Harmanpreet has been India’s best batter in the tournament. India’s habit of losing early wickets has forced Harman to play against her character whenever she comes to the middle initially.

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And to the credit of the fourth highest run getter in the tournament, she has done incredibly well. But the kind of power-packed performer Harman is, India can make better use of her at the top of the order than asking her to bat down and stem the damage again and again.

Apart from Harmanpreet, the only Indian batter that has made her way into the top-ten run getters list in the tournament is Smriti Mandhana. Smriti has scored 226 runs at an impressive average of 45.20. She is occupying the seventh spot. And that’s where the problem lies. India have not managed to find someone who could consistently bat well for them in the middle order.

Yastika has had quite a few starts but has only managed a solitary half-century thus far. Although skipper Mithali scored a half-century along with Yastika in the last game, she has had her own fair share of struggles in the tournament.

With 278 runs to defend in the last match, the Indian bowlers had a lot of cushion to begin with. But they failed to restrain the Aussie batting order. Apart from Pooja Vastrakar, none of the other Indian bowlers looked threatening. And it is a major cause of concern for the Indian team management.

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On paper, the Indian bowling attack has had three impressive displays in the tournament. And they have been against Pakistan, the West Indies, and England respectively. But on two out of those three occasions, they had ample amount of runs on the board. India had posted 244 on the board against Pakistan, which for a fragile batting unit like Pakistan, was always going to be more than enough. Bismah Maroof’s side has only crossed the 200-run mark twice in the five games that they have played thus far.

Against the Windies, India had amassed a mammoth 317 on the board – the highest in the tournament so far. And it again made life pretty easier for their bowlers, as the West Indian batters tumbled under the pressure to match the asking run rate. The game against England was the only occasion when the Indian bowlers bowled really well and almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Brilliant Bangladesh

Although Bangladesh have only won one game so far, they are looking a much happier bunch than India. Most of the time in sport, performances of teams and athletes are judged by looking at the scoresheet. And if you would look at the points table of the ongoing tournament, you wouldn’t get to know the kind of impact Nigar Sultana’s side has created thus far.

They were breathing down South Africa’s neck for the most part in that clash. They beat Pakistan by nine runs and almost pulled off an unforgettable victory against the West Indies in their last fixture.

Bangladesh have played to their strengths so far and have let their spinners operate in an unfettered way. And that’s what has brought them success. Left-arm orthodox Nahida Akter and right-arm off-spinner Salma Khatun were commendable in the last game. They sucked the life out of the West Indies’ innings. And hence the Windies could only manage 140 runs. The leg-spinning duo of Rumana Ahmed and Fahima Khatun also piled on the pain for Stafanie Taylor’s side. The four spinners in tandem bowled a jaw-dropping 152 dot balls.

It was their batting that let them down or else they could have easily notched up their second win. Their batters needed to put their hands up but they succumbed to pressure.

While India will head into Tuesday’s clash as clear favourites, with the way Nigar’s side has been playing right now, they will have their work cut out.

What they said:

“We have more experience of playing T20Is against India. And I would say that we have a good record against them in T20Is. After winning the Asia Cup in 2018, our approach has totally changed whenever we turn up against them. I think that we have a lot of experienced players in our team who have played against them before. Since we played in Hamilton last time against Pakistan, we have an idea about the wicket. Today, we spent some time indoors. So, hopefully, for tomorrow’s match since we know the wicket plus we have good playing experience on the same, I think we will do well.”

– Nigar Sultana on the team’s spirits ahead of Tuesday’s clash.

If Bangladesh are part of this World Cup, it means they have performed well in the past to be at such a huge platform. I have seen Bangladesh improving. We are playing match by match, irrespective of  who it is against – Bangladesh or any other team. We won’t take any match easy. As it’s a must win game,  we will give our 100%.

– Sneh Rana on her thoughts about Tuesday’s clash.

Players to watch out for:

Mithali Raj: The 39-year old warhorse looked close to her usual best in the last game against Australia. She scored a well-compiled half-century and led from the front. Barring the last game, the skipper hasn’t fired with the bat at all. And although it won’t be easy with the Bangladeshi spinners bowling wonderfully well in pairs, the veteran of 230 ODI games will look to use all her experience to notch up a good score and lead her side to victory.

Nahida Akter: Nahida was brilliant in the last game. She provided her side with the best possible chance of winning their second game of the tournament. Inspite of not getting the kind of assistance that she is habituated to from the wickets in New Zealand, Nahida has been varying her pace and flight to deceive the batters. And it won’t come as a surprise if she does well tomorrow.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 4 matches, India 4 – 0 Bangladesh

Predicted XI:

India: Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad

Bangladesh: Shamima Sultana (wk), Sharmin Akhter, Fargana Hoque, Nigar Sultana (c), Rumana Ahmed, Ritu Moni, Fahima Khatun, Salma Khatun, Nahida Akter, Jahanara Alam, Fariha Trisna