Despite Sri Lanka and Pakistan battling it out in the Asia Cup opener at Fatullah, Mirpur’s Sher-e-Bangla stadium resembled no less of a fortress on Tuesday. The Indian team dodged past the riffles and the vehicles of the Rapid Action Battalion to camp themselves at the stadium’s indoor facility.
Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, the body-painted Sachin Tendulkar fan, had arrived at the venue. Standing on a pathway overlooking the practice area, wearing an old India jersey, he waved the tri-colour for the entire duration of the two-hour long practice.
If the sight of one of Indian cricket’s most devoted fans away from home would have comforted the world champions, the prospect of taking the field after two winless ODI series with a renewed batting backbone would have concerned the team.
Yuvraj Singh has been omitted since the one-dayers in South Africa. The awfully out-of-form Suresh Raina, who was dropped for the Asia Cup, is a veteran of 189 ODIs. It is, however, the absence of original captain MS Dhoni that could be hard to overcome for the Indian team. Being the top run-scorer in the South Africa ODIs and the second-highest in New Zealand, Dhoni was one of the few shinning lights to emerge from India’s batting.
In fact, finishing games with immaculate understanding of the match-situation was a quality of the three, especially Dhoni and Yuvraj, shared. Does India have a suitable replacement?
Midway through the session, after stand-in skipper Virat Kohli returned to the dugout after his stint in the nets, there was a mini batsmen’s conference. Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik, engaged in a discussion, animated the meaty shots.
Following which, Rayudu, Jadeja and Karthik struck the ball with venom in the nets, thudding regularly into the metal enclosure.
The finisher’s role could be the responsibility of one of the three, with Stuart Binny holding an outside chance, when India clash with Bangladesh at Fatullah on Wednesday. Karthik, who is Dhoni’s replacement and has displayed his ability to tonk the bowlers in the IPL, is a leading contender. But, whether any of the three even come close to replicating the heroics of Dhoni remains in doubt.
“I am confident of grabbing the opportunity, wherever I get to bat. We also have guys who have played over 100 internationals to handle the situation,” remarked Karthik.
Even better would be if the batting outfit performs in unison, a feature that deserted the Indians in South Africa and New Zealand. The solution for which could be the solidity of Pujara’s batting. The under-fire coach, Duncan Fletcher, had a 15-minute chat with Pujara before the team was done for the day. If the Saurashtra batsman can hold an end, the others could rally around him, thus reintroducing stability in the middle-order.
However, if Pujara plays, it would be interesting to note where Rahane fits in. After all, Rahane, who regained form in the New Zealand Tests, may find it hard to force the pace after coming in post number four or five.
After all the permutations and combinations are considered, what will eventually matter is for the team to start winning again.