World Cup 2019: What India can learn from Bangladesh's resilience
The wickets kept tumbling but they kept coming like a never-ending pack of avengers hell-bent on making it their day. What were they avenging, then? Only the little matter of a contentious World Cup-quarterfinal loss in 2015, that still rankles with the vociferous Bangladeshi faithful. And boy, did they not give it their all?
In the end, India, the eternal shadow under which Bangladesh cricket has forever lived, prevailed as deserving winners by 28 runs after yet another stellar show with the ball. But the lessons the big boys from India can take away from this tense victory can have a telling impact on their World Cup prospects heading into the semifinal stage.
The issue at stake
India's bone of contention, and the cause of frequent ire in the team's vociferous fans, has been the tepid performances of the middle and lower middle-order, which have struggled to be consistent. MS Dhoni, the legend and current favorite fall guy, has begun slowly and often not kicked on to get those quick runs so necessary towards the latter stages of a limited overs' innings.
Kedar Jadhav, dropped for this game, has also come under fire for a similar approach. Once the behemoths Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have got out and the top-order departed, India have batted with a strange kind of circumspection that has led to both a slowing down of the run rate and a loss of wickets.
Things came to a head in the defeat to England, where, needing almost 70 runs off the last five overs, Jadav and Dhoni failed to get going as India fell short by quite a margin. Their approach was perceived to be shackled and showing a lack of intent; an issue that can be a cause for concern with the semifinals knocking on the doors.
Lower-order, higher purpose
One can legitimately claim that Bangladesh have redefined the art of chasing big totals in this World Cup. They chased down a 300-plus score against West Indies with seven wickets in hand, while another brilliant chase against Australia fell short by a handsome margin simply because the target was too imposing.
The catalyst of this reinvented Bangladesh has been Shakib Al Hasan, who has batted in this tournament like a magician, getting past 500 runs in the tournament on Tuesday. While chasing a challenging 315 on a slow surface, Al Hasan again led the charge with a fine 66 before the ball stopped on him and he lobbed a catch to short cover.
However, the revelation of the chase was the bowling all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin, whose left-handed willow continued swinging like a mighty sword till the very end, as he kept the equation close right to the point he ran out of partners. His counter-attacking 51 not out of a mere 38 balls was a breathtaking spectacle, literally so, for the Indian fans who must have had their hearts in their mouths. Saifuddin had come into bat at No.8.
What India can learn
It was another day of frustration for the Indian middle and lower-middle order as they slowed down after a cracking start provided by the aesthetically-pleasing opening stand between Rohit Sharma, in sublime form this time, and KL Rahul, who ground out his runs in a commendable fashion.
However, once the top-order departed, India could manage just 60-odd in the last ten overs while losing a plethora of wickets. One might argue that the 35 MS Dhoni eked out with Mustafizur Rahman in his elements, was vital to the cause. But question marks remain about the shackled approach of the middle and lower-middle order despite Kedar Jadhav rightly making way for Dinesh Karthik. That lesson is of freedom and courage which have, to an extent, unusually deserted the Indian batsmen coming in later. This, despite the impressive 48 that Rishabh Pant struck at No.4.
The audacious six hit off a lofted on-drive by Liton Das in a tricky situation sums up this approach. Saifuddin took a costly single late in the match that exposed the last two batsmen to the viciousness of Jasprit Bumrah's yorkers, otherwise, the tale could have had a twist.
India possibly have the right batting personnel playing right now, Jadhav has been dropped, while Vijay Shankar has had to exit the tournament due to an injury, forcing the inclusion of Pant. India, though, might be a bit batsman-heavy with Karthik or Pant not offering a bowling option. Ravindra Jadeja could be tried for the last match in the lower-middle order but he is yet to play a game this tournament and the semis beckon. India have had a deservedly great run in the tournament, but one bad day in knockout sports can end a dream.
In the end, whoever they play in those vital positions, the approach needs to evolve at the business end of the tournament, and Bangladesh's resilience could be a lesson in that.
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