It’s unusually chilly, damp and gloomy. The rain is constant and although the forecast is slightly better for match day, it won’t be a surprise if showers interrupt play.
TOI POLL: Where should Pant bat if he replaces DK in the India Playing XI?
The rain, and not Bangladesh’s ability to surprise in what is turning out to be a tournament of surprises, is the biggest worry as Rohit Sharma‘s men enter must-win territory on the only pitch that can be termed a batting beauty in this tournament.
India knew at some stage they would have to deal with a shortened game. The players were restricted to the indoor nets on match eve as an endless succession of mops kept the water out of the Adelaide Oval covers.
Virat Kohli leaves after a practice session in Adelaide. (AFP Photo)
“You can’t go in thinking about it (rain) or planning for it,” said coach Rahul Dravid. “You don’t know how many overs it will be. You go in thinking it will be a 20-over game and you respond accordingly. We’ve been lucky, we’ve been able to play all three of our games for the full 20 overs. If the weather tomorrow forces us to play a 10 or 12-over game we’ll respond accordingly.”
Bangladesh-India games have had an uneasy edge over the past few years, including the 2016 T20 World Cup game which India won by one run in Bengaluru. A rain-curtailed match and India’s eastern neighbours might start fancying their chances.
After just the one loss to South Africa in Perth, India find themselves facing a couple of key issues. Suddenly their XI doesn’t look as settled.
Here is a breakdown of some of the talking points going into the game. . .
Will Rahul finally strike form?
India’s opener has scored 4 against Pakistan, 9 against the Netherlands and 9 again vs South Africa. Everyone knows his potential but waiting for somebody to find form is not an option in a T20 World Cup, where there is zero margin for error. Captain Rohit needs someone to go ballistic at the other end in the Powerplay. This game could be Rahul’s make or break moment, in spite of the team management’s constant words of reassurance. No wonder Virat Kohli was seen having a long discussion with him.
Eye on Karthik‘s fitness
He hurt his back while keeping wickets in Perth and although ‘DK’ turned up at the nets and went through his keeping routines on Tuesday, it will be touch and go. “It was unfortunate he had that spasm as he jumped up to collect a bouncer. He landed in a way that hurt his back a little bit. But with treatment he’s pulled up pretty well. He’s come to training. So we’ll be assessing it. We’ll see how it goes,” Dravid said.
If ‘DK’ can’t take the field, Rishabh Pant gets in. But where does Pant bat? Up front with Rohit, pushing KL Rahul lower down where he can maybe be more effective, or as a finisher instead? India will be hoping Karthik will be better on match day.
Back to Axar or persist with Hooda?
Having changed a winning combination, India are now stuck in a bind. Keeping Axar out means no left-hander in the top seven if Karthik is fit, but his match-ups don’t excite because there are a lot of left-handers in the Bangladesh line-up, meaning Hooda might get another game. If so, can Hooda slot in as finisher instead if Karthik is unfit?
Death bowling remains a concern
India’s tendency to leak runs in the end overs remains a worry. “It’s an area we’ve wanted to get better at. Obviously Bums (Bumrah) was one of those guys who was pencilled in to bowl two of those overs. It is really heartening to see the way Arshdeep has developed,” said Dravid. “I won’t read too much into the Netherlands game. Against Pakistan we conceded 53 or 54 runs.”
Bat first again after winning the toss?
This pitch can be a belter under ordinary circumstances but how will it play with so much rain around? The average score batting first in the last 5 games is 181. 90. The average score batting first under lights is 170. The average score batting second, in the last 5 games, falls to 139. 8. A no-brainer, especially on the day of a double header, with Zimbabwe playing Netherlands on the same pitch in the afternoon game? Only Rohit, and the rain, knows.
Hold on to the catches!
India’s fielding and catching was shoddy in Perth, with Virat Kohli getting some attention of the unwanted kind for dropping Aiden Markram and captain Rohit missing an easy run-out chance, among other lapses. “There were a few opportunities we could have taken in the last game. That happens. It’s not because of lack of effort. It’s just the nature of the game. Some days those direct ones hit from anywhere. Some days they don’t, and the ball goes to the best fielder in the park (and is dropped). It’s a great lesson in humility,” Dravid said.
Onward then, to the most edgy contest remaining for India in the group stage.