Friday 27 June 2008 

Super Four Stage Should Hold No Surprises For India

One week into the ninth Asia Cup event, the usual suspects are through to the business end of the tournament. Having brushed aside Hong Kong and then turning in a sublime batting performance to beat old rivals Pakistan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s impressive Indian team prepare to take on Bangladesh tomorrow in Karachi. Ahead of that clash, we look back to an unforgettable match between the two teams at last year's cricket world cup in the West Indies.

When the draw was made for the 2007 World Cup it was widely expected that the two Test playing nations would qualify to the Super Eight stage of the competition, while many expected the two “minnows” in each group to exit at the first hurdle without having to much of an affect on the tournament what so ever.

India and Sri Lanka were the overwhelming favourites to get out of their group. However unlike any other group in the tournament, there was a third Test-playing nation present in Group B, and that was Bangladesh.

While nobody considered Bangladesh to be minnows, the reality was that they had struggled in all forms of cricket to match the consistency and class of any other team with Test status.

India’s opening match was indeed against Bangladesh, and skipper Rahul Dravid had no hesitation in opting to bat first after winning the toss.

The much vaunted Indian batting line really did seem to be off the pace, as they were reduced to 72 for four. It took some resilient batting from former captain Sourav Gangly (66) and Yuvraj Singh (47) to apparently get India back on track. However Mashrafe Mortaza continued to cause Rahul Dravid’s side problems as he finished with figures of four for 38 and India were bowled out for a below par 191.

To have any chance of preventing a huge upset India needed early wickets and when Shahriar Nafees (two) departed, lbw to Zaheer Khan, it seemed as though the 2003 runners-up were on the verge of getting back into the game. However some fantastic batting from Tamim Iqbal who smashed 51 from 53 balls and Mushfiqur Rahim saw Bangladesh home by five wickets.

That result went a long way towards eliminating India and indeed a loss to Sri Lanka, did indeed spell the end of the road for the Indians at the first hurdle, while the victory enabled Bangladesh to reach the Super Eight stage.

Since that tournament which also saw Pakistan fall the first hurdle, one might say that order has been restored. India have won the Twenty20 World Cup as well as the Commonwealth Bank series in Australia, while Bangladesh have failed to beat a Test-playing nation since the 2007 World Cup.

The two teams met again just two weeks ago in the Kitply Cup, with India emerging victorious by seven wickets on that occasion.

India’s batting really appears to be gelling, the players who starred in the IPL and World Twenty20 appear to be able to play in a similar vein over 50 overs; MS Dhoni’s side were simply awesome in their last game against Pakistan, set what looked to be a stiff target of 300, they achieved it with eight overs to spare. Suresh Raina and Virender Sehwag who hit a breathtaking century from 95 balls were the men who made the victory as convincing as it was.

Raina is yet another player who has been able to re-launch his career by virtue of some very good performances in the IPL.

It is hard to see any result apart from an Indian victory when the two sides lock horns tomorrow. However given what happened on Saturday March 17th 2007 when the two sides met at the Queens Park oval in Trinidad, you can be assured that India will be taking nothing for granted.

Aaron Kumar
© Cricket World 2008