Replace Justin Timberlake with Rahul Dravid. Replace ‘sexy’ with ‘respect’. There. You have now captured the Indian cricket captain’s mission on the tour of Bangladesh. “I’m bringin’ respect back. Yeah!”
The World Cup and its fallout have been traumatic for Indian cricket. The team hasn’t been performing. Disputes among players and those between players and the Indian Board are getting frequent and, if Tuesday’s sting operation is authentic, things said in private seem to be out in the public domain.
In this scenario of negativity, Dravid must be itching to win the challenge against Bangladesh, which begins on Thursday with the first one-dayer at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka. At least, it will arrest the plunge in regard for the team, if not fully compensate for the letdown in the Caribbean.
In itself, India-Bangladesh is no Federer-Nadal, Apple-Microsoft or The Gandhis vs The Bachchans. It’s not a tasty rivalry. Not yet at least. But the context to their contest makes the series — comprising three ODIs and two Tests — interesting. India need to prove a few things while Bangladesh have to show that their performance wasn’t a fluke.
Bangladesh won three of the nine matches they played in the World Cup. One of those three victories — the one that gave you that gash on the heart — was against India. The motive of revenge has therefore been ascribed to India’s current campaign. Dravid, though, has been denying it. What he doesn’t is the desire to do well. “When you have not played for a while, you cannot wait to get out there. The boys are very excited,” Dravid said after practice. “We are keen to do well.”
So are Bangladesh. Not only are they playing at home after having tasted the addictive spirit of success, this series is also their captain Habibul Bashar’s last one-day international series in Bangladesh. He wants to exit the stage as a winner.
“This will be my last ODI series at home and I want to leave on a high,” Bashar said. “One win will be good and if the opportunity arises we might go for a series win. But the goal is to be competitive.”
Both teams practiced in the morning on Wednesday, Bangladesh a little earlier than India. That helped them avoid the rain. India, though, had to shift indoors and bat on a synthetic surface. Thankfully, by afternoon, the sun came out, said sorry-for-the-delay-was-held-up-in-cloud-traffic and bathed the impressive Sher-E-Bangla arena in its light.
Despite the ill luck they have suffered in recent times, despite the injury to young hope Manoj Tiwary, India have the upper hand. Bangladesh may have to play without their strike bowler, Mashrafe Mortaza, troubled by a back problem. And curator Badiul Alam Khokon has made an entertainer of a wicket, without grass and promising runs.
“It’s one-day cricket and people want to see big scores from both teams,” he said. He attributed the pigeon grey of the strip to the use of black clay, a first at the venue. Wednesday’s rain will not have much bearing on the behaviour of the ground. For India, Ramesh Powar and Dinesh Mongia seem set for a comeback. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, left-arm pacer RP Singh and Tiwary are out of the 15.