A struggling Indian team, severely depleted by a spate of on-field injuries and fitness-related problems, will be determined to avoid the ignominy of a clean sweep against Bangladesh in the final ODI of the three-match series here on Saturday.
Bangladesh, riding on two contrasting yet brilliant knocks from Mehidy Hasan Miraz, have already sealed the series after winning the first two matches but if Litton Das’ men can blank the Men in Blue 3-0, it will be a historic first in the country’s cricket.
Not only will it be an icing on the cake for the hosts but also significantly dent the visiting team’s confidence ahead of the Test series, starting at this very venue in less than a week’s time (December 14).
Spate of injuries
For India, there were 20 cricketers originally available for this series since there was a very short turnaround time between the first ODI in Bangladesh and the last game in New Zealand as some players in both squads were common.
But call it a cruel twist of fate as within a week things have gone from bad to worse and they only have 13 fit and available players to choose from for the final game.
Regular skipper Rohit Sharma sustained a left thumb dislocation and has flown back home. Up and coming pacer Kuldeep Sen suffered a back injury after playing his first international game. Seamer Deepak Chahar continued his saga of breaking down in almost all the series he has played since his comeback from a long lay-off.
Add to this, Axar Patel suffered a hit in the ribs and missed the first game while Rishabh Pant, who flew all the way from New Zealand, reportedly had a niggle and had to be rested for excessive workload prior to this series.
In fact, there will be two forced changes in the playing eleven with Rohit and Chahar already unavailable.
Ishan Kishan to come in?
It is there to be seen whether India bring in Ishan Kishan into the playing XI as an opener or stand-in skipper KL Rahul, who is now a designated middle-order batter-keeper in this format, decides to promote himself just like during the tour of South Africa.
The other option is continuing with Virat Kohli-Shikhar Dhawan combination and get someone like Rahul Tripathi, who can also bowl some cutters at mid 120 clicks, in the playing XI. If the team management goes for a pure batter rather than a utility player, then the stylish Rajat Patidar could get his first game for India.
In case of Chahar’s replacement, there isn’t a back-up pacer available and the team might not have an option but to fall back to all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed, who could be the sixth bowling option.
India’s five-pronged bowling attack will be Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umran Malik, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel.
With no Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja, the Indian bowling unit’s performance at the back-end has been far from impressive.
In the first match, it was plain and simple poor bowling when only one wicket to get and 51 runs still required, while in the second game, Bangladesh scored 200-plus runs after being six down for 69.
In the second game, Chahar’s breakdown with another hamstring injury prompted skipper Rohit Sharma to make a terse statement about how one needs to get to the bottom of the issue to find out why so many players (fast bowlers especially) are getting injured in recent times.
While a full-strength Bangladesh will start as favourites in the final game, the bigger worry will be KL Rahul, the skipper.
His record, save in the ODI series win against a below-par Zimbabwe, has been dismal and the last thing he would need is another clean sweep defeat against his name after the tour of South Africa.
Till now, there has been little or no indication that Rahul is a long-time future India captain, who has displayed above average leadership acumen in the matches that he has led so far.
India: KL Rahul (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Mohammed Siraj, Rajat Patidar, Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Umran Malik
Bangladesh: Litton Kumer Das, Anamul Hague Bijoy, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Yasir All Chowdhury, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Nasum Ahmed, Mahmud Ullah, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Quazi Nurul Hasan Sohan, Shoriful Islam