India travels to Bangladesh focusing on T20 World Cup

India travels to Bangladesh focusing on T20 World Cup

The last time these two teams met in Bangladesh, there was quite a bit of bad temper, with Harmanpreet Kaur breaking the stumps and criticizing the umpires for “pathetic decisions”, and home captain Nigar Sultana criticizing their “manners”. Nine months later, the bigger picture is the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in September-October, as India and Bangladesh begin their preparations with a five-T20I series in Sylhet, starting on Sunday.
Bangladesh were thrashed 3-0 at home by Australia a few weeks ago and despite that thrashing, they haven’t changed their team much for this series. India’s last T20I series was also a 2-1 loss at home to Australia in December-January, where senior players like Harmanpreet and Smriti Mandhana put up disappointing performances. However, several of India’s international players returned to form in the 2024 WPL and, with some new names in the mix, they will hope to carry that momentum into international cricket as well. Both teams will be eager to experiment and find their ideal combinations in these five T20Is before traveling to Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup in July, ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year.

Bangladesh’s batting difficulties

Bangladesh needs to improve their batting if they want to give India a fight. In the recent series against Australia, they scored a total of 126 for 4, 103 for 9 and 78 all out. Only their captain Sultana was consistent with 96 runs in three innings, including a fifty, although he had a strike rate of 91.42. Bangladesh’s second-best batsman was Fahima Khatun, with 53 runs. From the team that played against Australia, Bangladesh made just one change, bringing in wicketkeeper-batsman Rubya Haider, who played the three-T20I series against Sri Lanka last year, in place of the uncapped Farzana Akter. The hosts will need top-order batsmen like Fargana Hoque, Sobhana Mostary and Rubya to provide a solid foundation before Sultana can take off.

Can India’s highest order flourish in Sylhet?

The last time India toured Bangladesh in July 2023, their top three had a disappointing series. In three matches, Shafali Verma scored a total of 30, Smriti Mandhana 52 and Jemimah Rodrigues 47. Rodrigues will miss this series due to back problems. As far as recent form is concerned, both openers had an excellent WPL, with Shafali finishing as the third highest run-scorer with 309 in nine matches at a strike rate of 156.85 and Mandhana just behind her with 300 in ten games with 133.92. With Richa Ghosh preferred as the team’s starting wicket-keeper, Yastika Bhatia could play as a pure batsman at number 3; she scored 204 runs in eight games at 121.42 as an opener for Mumbai Indians in the WPL. India will believe their top three are better prepared this time.

WPL stars and a problem of abundance

India potentially has an abundance problem. Legspinner S Asha and spin-bowling allrounder S Sajana have earned their first international call-ups thanks to their performances in WPL after years of hard work on the domestic circuit. Asha, 33, became the first Indian to score a five in the WPL and finished as the second-highest wicket-taker (12) of the season, playing a crucial role in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s title run. Sajana was one of Mumbai’s rising stars with her great hitting ability. Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav returned to the Indian team after a year, following an impressive outing for the Delhi Capitals, acquiring ten wickets in nine games at an economy rate of 7.48. With Deepti Sharma and Shreyanka Patil being the first-choice spinners, it remains to be seen how India will include Asha, Radha and Saika Ishaque in the XI. To accommodate Sajana in the lower-middle order, India might even have to bench Amanjot Kaur.

Plot and conditions in Sylhet

The last T20I series between the two teams was played entirely in Dhaka. India came in with three spinners and two seamers, with Shafali and Rodrigues contributing more spin as part-timers. Bangladesh played a spin-heavy attack with just one seamer in Marufa Akther. This time, all five T20Is are in Sylhet, starting at 3.30 pm local time. The venue recently hosted a men’s three-T20I series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in March, where the average score was 177 and four of the top five bowlers were fast bowlers. Some help can be expected initially for the seamers, but both teams could still rely on spinners as wicketkeepers. India played two T20Is against Bangladesh at this venue and on both occasions scored more than 150 and restricted the hosts to 100 or less.