Bangladesh have worse results against other teams. They won only one of 21 matches against Australia and against Pakistan, they have won just five of 36. However, India remain the White Whale for the Tigers, not just because of a 5-29 win-loss ratio, but because in recent times India have been the one fish -- or mammal -- that got away despite Bangladesh having them in their grasp.
The most recent such example was the teams’ last encounter, in the Asia Cup final in Dubai, last September. Centurion Liton Das and surprise opener Mehedi Hasan Miraz had the Indians on the ropes with a 120-run opening stand, but then Bangladesh imploded to 222 all out. They still showed fight to take the match to the last over, but were heartbroken again, again at the hands of India in a crunch game.
Before that, Bangladesh lost the Nidahas Trophy T20 final against India in Colombo when Dinesh Karthik hit Soumya Sarkar over cover for six off the last ball of the match. The 2016 World Twenty20 is perhaps the harshest as Bangladesh were dumped out of the tournament after needing just two runs to win from three balls, only for the three wickets to fall without a score being added. They had also lost the 2017 Champions Trophy semifinal and the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal against India, and the 2016 T20 Asia Cup final to India. In the ongoing World Cup too, with Bangladesh in a position where they have to win their next two matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the semifinals, the Tigers are faced with their white whale.
Having run a fine, praiseworthy World Cup campaign so far, if Bangladesh are to stand a chance of upstaging the form team of the tournament and gaining arguably the team’s most prized scalp, there are a few areas they could look to shore up on.
Early wickets, calling Soumya and Fizz
This works both ways. Only once in their six matches in the ongoing World Cup -- in the match against New Zealand on June 5 -- have Bangladesh taken more than one wicket in the first 10 overs. Against India that could well be costly, especially if the likes of Rohit Sharma are allowed to settle in. Bangladesh have some inspiration to draw on from the World Cup warm-up game against India on May 28. Mustafizur Rahman opened the bowling, got the wicket of the now-injured Shikhar Dhawan and consistently troubled Kohli and Sharma with his pace and swing. However, his consistency has been a concern in the tournament proper and, if he does open the bowling, any loose balls will be punished by Sharma and KL Rahul -- who scored a century in the warm-up.
While most of the onus will be on Bangladesh’s misfiring bowling attack, the challenge of playing India now is that they also have arguably the best bowling attack. Bangladesh’s batting is their strong suit, but with their style of play -- gradually building towards a sizeable total rather than rocketing to it -- it is imperative that openers Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar give them a big start. The duo have been performing well -- early wickets have not been a feature of Bangladesh’s batting since the tri-series in Ireland -- but with India’s varied bowling attack, they have to absorb the pressure and put some of it back before passing the baton onto the in-form middle order headed by Shakib Al Hasan in red-hot form. While Tamim has not set the world alight, he still has 205 runs from six matches. It is Soumya, with 111 runs from six games, who has to step up next Monday.
Burst through fear of failure
After the Asia Cup final loss in 2018, skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had said in an interview that there had to be improvements in mental strength. He talked about how, even when the openers were building a strong stand, the fear of something bad happening was at the back of his mind. It can justifiably be said that if the mentally strong captain experienced this fear, then the rest of the team -- having gone through heartbreaks against India -- felt it too. He speculated that perhaps that fear was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The talk, on the record and off, has been to play the next two matches as one-offs and play the opponents as they come. If they can match up in skills with India on the day, it may well come down to staving off that fear when it comes to winning crunch moments.