Title aspirants India will have revenge on their minds when they launch their 2011 cricket World Cup campaign against co-hosts Bangladesh in the tournament-opener in Mirpur on Saturday, fully aware that any slip-up could prove costly.
Minnows Bangladesh had ensured India's early exit in the first round of the 2007 edition at the Caribbeans and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men will be eagar to settle the score and kick start their campaign on a positive note at the Shere Bangla National stadium. Tipped as one of the favourites, the current world number two side, boasts off an exceptionally balanced team, but such a pool of talented players will also pose a few selection questions for skipper Dhoni. Dhoni though seems to have sorted out his problem of plenty in the batting department when he tipped Virat Kohli ahead of Suresh Raina after their second warm up match against New Zealand. "The number four slot is very important for us.
Right now it is a slot war. It is the number four slot where Kohli needs to bat with Gautam Gambhir at number three," Dhoni said. "Kohli is sort of a player who likes to spend little bit of time early and then go after the bowlers. Still, there is a bit of chance where Virat may get an edge over (Suresh) Raina seeing the current form he is in," he added. Dhoni also hinted that he would stand by Yuvraj Singh as his ability to spin the ball away makes him an asset to the team even though currently he is a bit short of runs. "We are playing with four bowlers. A part-time spinner is really important especially if it is a left-arm away going spinner. That's the one big advantage he (Yuvraj) has got over others," Dhoni said.
The explosive batting line-up will be marshalled by Sachin Tendulkar, who would be participating in his sixth World Cup this time around and the senior batsmen will look to give India a flying start with Virender Sehwag. Gautam Gambhir will be next, while the middle-order also looks rock solid with Kohli, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan -- all capable of playing big-shots and also rotating the strike. In their second and last warm up game, India scored a mammoth 360 against New Zealand and it will give a lot of confidence to the batsmen, especially skipper Dhoni and Gambhir, who hit an unbeaten 108 and 89 respectively. Kohli and Raina also cracked half-centuries against New Zealand and Dhoni would be hoping his boys continue the good work. In the bowling department, Dhoni will have to pick his options carefully since India is going with a four-pronged attack.
Indian spinners Harbhajan Singh and surprise inclusion Piyush Chawla have taken five and six wickets in the last two warm up games. Even R Ashwin and part-time spinner Yuvraj scalped two and three wickets respectively. In contrast, the pacers have struggled with Ashish Nehra claiming two and Praveen Kumar's replacement S Sreesanth taking one wicket, while Munaf Patel remaining wicketless in the warm up matches.
But with pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who didn't feature in the two warm up ties because of a minor niggle, returning to action tomorrow, a much better performance can be expected from the seamers. Bangladesh, on the other hand, have so far been content with an odd upset and have been generally looked upon as underachievers but the tigers would look to shrug off that tag when they lock horns with India at home.
Though they have just five victories from 20 World Cup matches to show, Bangladesh has the distinction of beating Pakistan on debut during the 1999 edition and ousting India and defeating South Africa four years ago. Skippered by Shakib-Al-Hasan, Bangladesh have a few good batsmen in talented Mohammad Ashraful, the pint-sized dynamic opener Tamim Iqbal and wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim. Besides, captain Shakib-Al-Hasan, himself, ranks number one in the ICC's all-rounders list and knows how to wield the willow. Bangladesh won their first warm up match against Canada but lost to Pakistan in the second tie.
However, their openers Tamim and Imrul Kayes have got runs under their belt in the two matches. Though their pace attack will lack the fire-power of speedster Mashrafe Mortaza, 21-year-old pacer Rubel Hossain had claimed five wickets in the warm up matches. Besides, Bangladesh also have some good tweakers in left-arm slow bowlers Shakib and Abdur Razzaq, who can get handy support from many other part-timers. Bangladesh can also take heart from the fact that they came into the tournament after having made a clean sweep against New Zealand, a full-fledged test playing country and defeating Zimbabwe 3-1 at home, where they will play all their six league games.
Teams: India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin, Ashish Nehra.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (C), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Shahriar Nafees, Raqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Naeem Islam, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Suhrawadi Shuvo.
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