New captain Mahmudullah Riyad stands on the verge of scripting a record for Bangladesh when his team take to the field at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Thursday looking to clinch a three-match T20I series for the first time in India. Four days after Bangladesh defeated Rohit Sharma-led side in the first T20I in Delhi by seven wickets, Mahmudullah will be hoping to take an unassailable lead in the series.
As for India, they will look to draw level and force the series into decider by winning in Rajkot. The Rajkot match will provide an opportunity for Mahmudullah for a personal milestone: he is within touching distance of scripting his name in history books as he is just two sixes away from completing a half-century of maximums in T20Is. He will become the first cricketer from Bangladesh to achieve the feat.
Known for big hitting, the Bangladesh skipper showed his stroke-making prowess during his short stint in the middle in the first T20 where he clubbed a six and four to play a key role in his team’s victory in Delhi as Bangladesh beat India by seven wickets in the series opener on Sunday, chasing down a modest target of 149 with ease. It was their first victory over India in the shortest format.
A measure of Mahmudullah’s determination to clinch the series was available when he gave a a simple message to his young players: play the way that suits you best, if the remarks of all-rounder Afif Hossain was any indication. His message has allowed the youngsters grow in confidence.
Under new captain Mahmudullah and with him, the Tigers have begun believing in greater returns. A win in Rajkot or in the third T20I match in Nagpur on Sunday next will be just Bangladesh’s dream come true moment that will once again prove that crisis can sometimes bring out the best in a team.
As they landed in Delhi last week, Bangladesh were recovering from a players strike demanding better wages in domestic cricket. And then ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit banned talismanic captain Shakib Al-Hasan for two years for not reporting multiple approaches by bookies. Their experienced opener Tamim Iqbal had already opted out of the India tour.
But in Delhi in the midst of air pollution and health emergency, Bangladesh pulled off a historic win and that too, quite comprehensively to show Shakib and Tamim were not missed. The visitors were finally able to tick all the boxes and took a 1-0 lead in the series. In Delhi, Bangladesh used eight bowlers and did not even need the full four-over quota of paceman Mustafizur Rahman to restrict India below the 150 run mark. Then they batted with purpose. It was more than a win on the field for the visiting side.
Like In Delhi, the focus of the match in Rajkot is also on the weather as cyclone Maha races towards Gujarat coast and is slated to make landfall on Thursday. However, there is some good news from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on We afternoon when it said that severe cyclone Maha is se to weaken and skirt Saurashtra coast as deep depression around noon on November 7.
It remains to be seen if the deep depression brings with it heavy rainfall in Rajkot. If it rains hard, the possibility of it affecting the match on Thursday evening cannot be ruled out. The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium is in readiness for all situations. “The drainage system at the ground is very good and we have an experienced groundstaff . We will need about an hour to prepare the ground in case there is rainfall on Thursday morning,” SCA Secretary Himanshu Shah said.
He recalled that “it had rained till about 3:30-4pm Indian time before the India-Australia one-off T20I in 2013 and we still had a full game.”
How will the pitch in Rajkot behave? Will it live up to its reputation as a batsman-friendly, devoid of grass and full of runs. According to groundsman Mansukhbhai Terraiya, the pitch has been fully covered since the city is likely to receive rains on Wednesday and Thursday due to the cyclone.
Himangshu Shah said even if there is rain in the first part of the day and no rain in the second part, the match, even if the number of overs is truncated, will go ahead. If the rain is heavy, it will make outfield slow and getting runs will be difficult as boundaries will be scarce because the ball would not travel very fast.
After suffering the huge seven-wicket defeat in the first T20I against Bangladesh, India is likely to make a few changes in tactics and possibly in the playing XI in a bid to win the second match in Rajkot and get back into the series. One of India’s major concerns is the form of skipper Rohit Sharma who was dismissed cheaply in the very first over in Delhi. He will need to do better as a batsman and as captain. His form with the bat in the format has not been good this year and he will hope for a turnaround in Rajkot.
Shikhar Dhawan was the only Indian batsman to get runs on the board in the 1st T20I. But he wasted too many balls which added pressure on the rest of the team. T20 is not just about hanging on at the crease but also collect quick runs especially in powerplay. India would be looking at Sharma and Dhawan for providing a solid foundation to put up a challenging total because most Indian bowlers are comparatively inexperienced.
Bangladesh will once again look up to Mushfiqur Rahim who had anchored his team’s run chase in Delhi with an unbeaten 60. He would look to play another crucial innings for the side in absence of Tamim and Shakib. Bangladesh bowlers, particularly spinner Aminul Isam and pacer Shafiul Islam, who had a good outing in Delhi, will be aiming to build on that performance.
While the Bangla Tigers would be aiming for another loud roar, India would be looking to take the series into the decider in Nagpur. India captain Rohit Sharma hinted at changes in pace combination for the second T20 International against Bangladesh. India had a par-score of 148 on a sluggish track in Delhi and it was pacer Khaleel Ahmed, who was hit for four boundaries by Mushfiqur in the 19th over that changed the complexion of the match.
“Our batting looks good. So, I don’t think there’s any change we need to make in our batting. But we’ll analyze the pitch in Rajkot and based on that we’ll see what we can do as a team,” Rohit told mediapersons at the pre-match interaction. While he didn’t take names but there is a chance of Shardul Thakur coming in place of Khaleel whose pace at times is making it easier for the opposition to negotiate at the death overs.
Rohit is expecting Rajkot track to play better than the one in Delhi. “The pitch in Rajkot looks good. Rajkot has always been a good track to bat on and it does offer some assistance to the bowlers also. It will be a good pitch. I’m pretty sure it will be better than what you saw in Delhi,” he said.
Asked whether there was pressure on bowlers, Rohit replied “pressure is just on the team to perform, as simple as that. Not a particular department. You’ve lost as a team, you’ve not lost as a bowling unit. So the focus will be on the team.” India have not had the kind of success in T20s as they have enjoyed in the other two formats of late and that is evident from the results this year. They have already lost a series at home this year -- to Australia -- before drawing against South Africa who were otherwise hammered in Tests.
In the absence of some senior players, including regular skipper Virat Kohli, the second game of the three-match series is an ideal platform for the fringe players to show what they are made of.