Among the five teams that will be participating in the Asia Cup, on paper and recent form India look the most formidable.
The team management has repeatedly claimed that the playing eleven is certain and all that is left for the side is to get enough game time to be ready for the World Twenty20.
The injury worries, though, have come at an inopportune time, just when the management is looking to experiment. And the players did little on the training field on Tuesday to instill confidence.
On the eve of their Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh, India’s worries were far from solved. Skipper MS Dhoni, who suffered a back spasm during the training session the previous day, did not show any signs of recovery on Tuesday.
Team officials said a final assessment would be made before the toss on Wednesday. Dhoni kept away from the training drills and did not bat in the nets. While his teammates batted in the nets, Dhoni remained on the boundary line, fetching the odd ball that came his way.
His back-up, Parthiv Patel, who arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday, skipped practice. If Dhoni does miss Wednesday’s game to be played in Mirpur, it would hand Patel his first international match since 2012. However, his lack of practice and the long journey to Dhaka is not the ideal preparation for someone who has been out of the international scene for this long.
Speaking to the media before the training session, vice-captain Virat Kohli didn’t quite spell out whether Dhoni’s injury was serious or not, but admitted his absence would have an impact. “It makes a difference when a player has some niggle just before the game, especially someone like MS, who is a pillar for us in the middle order,” Kohli said.
“With Parthiv coming in, we will have to sit down and see if that situation comes where he has to play. We will then have to sort out the combination, the best possible for the team in terms of the batting order,” he added, stating that the combination for the first game would be different from the previous games.
Pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who did not take part in the training session on Monday, turned up but had a light session. Incidentally, his back-up Bhuvneshwar Kumar was not among those who trained at the Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah. He arrived only as the team wound up proceedings and did not bowl.
India’s last two series showed there were few chinks in the armour. The playing eleven looked a polished bunch and the team leadership, including captain Dhoni, was satisfied in having found the right balance.
However, considering that the team has remained unchanged since the first T20 game against Australia in the last week of January, the injury worries will encourage the management to change things around.
Bangladesh though will not be an easy side to beat for India. The home team have been in form through 2015, and even left India in their wake on the last limited-overs tour. So, India can’t take things for granted against Bangladesh as they once used to.
With the high-stakes clash against Pakistan up next, and the World T20 after this tournament, India can ill-afford to lose momentum.