After their victory against Pakistan, it will take something special to stop hosts India, who seem to be getting better with every match.
India earned a hard-earned six-wicket victory against Australia in their opening game before trouncing Afghanistan by eight wickets and then streamrolled Pakistan by seven wickets to jump to the top of the standings.
They will once again start as favourites against Bangladesh, who after beating Afghanistan in their first match have suffered successive defeats against England and New Zealand.
India’s batting and bowling has been firing on all cylinders. The very fact that they dismissed former champions Australia and Pakistan under 200 shows the might of their bowling attack, while Captain Rohit Sharma has been leading from the front with his belligerent batting in the last two games.
After getting out for a duck against Australia, Rohit has stormed back with 217 runs in the next two games at a strike rate of 141.
Shubman Gill’s comeback has been a big boost for India even though he didn’t last long against Pakistan but he is surely one of the key figures of the Indian batting line-up.
If Rohit and Gill can stay long enough, then Bangladesh’s spinners will be in for a hammering in the middle overs.
The middle order is also nicely settled and looking hungry for runs.
Virat Kohli started with two half-centuries in a row, while Shreyas Iyer silenced critics with a fluent fifty against Pakistan.
K L Rahul provides the stability at No 5 with all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja adding a lot of strength and firepower to the batting line-up.
Given the way India’s batters have fared in the first three games, the lower order hasn’t had much to do. Hardik faced just eight balls against Australia while the rest of the batters below him haven’t faced a single ball yet.
Similarly, the bowling attack has ticked all boxes. Jasprit Bumrah provided the early breakthrough in the first two games and Mohammed Siraj did the trick against Pakistan.
Pakistan were looking good for a total around the 300-run mark at one stage, before Siraj and Bumrah along with spinner Kuldeep Yadav triggered a sensational collapse, with the visitors losing their last eight wickets for 36 runs.
Bumrah is leading the way with the ball with eight wickets from three matches at an economy rate of 3.44, while Jadeja, Pandya and Kuldeep have claimed three wickets each.
Shardul Thakur replaced Ravichandran Ashwin in the last two matches but he hasn’t had much to do with the ball, sending down just eight overs in the two games.
It remains to be seen if India continue with Thakur for the Bangladesh match or if they bring back Ashwin.
It could all boil down to what kind of pitch is prepared at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, which will make its World Cup debut.
Mohammed Shami is another player who could come into the reckoning if India decide to rest either Bumrah or Siraj, keeping in mind that they play an important game against New Zealand three days later.
The Pune pitch has generally been good for batters and it could once again be the case on Thursday.
The T20 International between India and Sri Lanka at Pune in January was a run feast with nearly 400 runs being scored. Sri Lanka amassed a huge 206/6 in their 20 overs and the hosts came very close as they finished on 190/8.
In the last three ODIs played in Pune, all between India and England in 2021, five out of the six innings produced 300-plus totals.
On paper, Bangladesh don’t possess enough firepower in their team to trouble the Indians. Their only victory against Afghanistan came on the back of some fine performances by their spinners but they were smashed for a mammoth 364 in their game against England.
They managed a below-par 245/9 against New Zealand, who chased down the runs easily with two wickets down and 43 balls to spare.
Seniors like cCptain Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mustafizur Rahman will need to shoulder a lot of responsibility against the strong Indian line-up.
Rahim has been their most consistent batter in the World Cup with two fifties from the three games, while Najmul Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Litton Das have hit half-centuries but none of them have carried forward to score a hundred.
Shakib has been Bangladesh’s most dependable bowler with five wickets at an economy rate of under five, which none of his others bowlers have managed.
India will be keen for revenge after suffering a six-run victory against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup last month, who also handed them a 2-1 series defeat at home last year.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.
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