India will have no illusions of invincibility when it meets Bangladesh in the semifinals of the Champions Trophy here on Thursday.
Bangladesh goes into the match ranked sixth in the world — above Pakistan and Sri Lanka — and justifiably so.
This is a team that since the World Cup has beaten India, Pakistan and South Africa in one-day series at home, and now stands on the brink of a monumental achievement. Indeed, its presence in the last four is already a triumph for no Bangladesh side has made it this far in a major tournament.
It would be a monumental step forward for the nation’s cricket if it advanced to the final of the Champions Trophy; this is a shot at history.
The challenge for Mashrafe Mortaza’s men will be to treat this, as their coach put it, as an opportunity and not be overwhelmed by the occasion. Too often, Bangladesh has been overly passionate, overly excited, losing its head when common sense was perhaps called for.
But it is no minnow. This is a competent, experienced outfit, with five players having earned in excess of a hundred one-day caps; Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim have more than 170.
Last week, Bangladesh rallied from 33 for four to chase down 266 against New Zealand; it was a sensational recovery, rendered possible by the country’s highest partnership in one-day cricket.
But nobody was truly astonished that Shakib and Mahmudullah could bat.
There has been some luck along the way too; had four more overs of play been possible at the Oval against Australia, Bangladesh would have been on a flight home.
But this is not the first team to profit from good fortune in big tournaments; Pakistan (1992) and Sri Lanka (1996) went on to win World Cups.
India will not be complacent, especially after having tasted defeat once. The team left nothing to chance against South Africa, bowling, fielding and batting flawlessly. Virat Kohli’s men have big-game experience, and will neither be nervous nor afraid.
All other things being equal, this should not be much of a contest. Bangladesh and India have met 32 times, and India has lost only on five occasions.
There is no comparing their pedigree: the eleven that played for Bangladesh against New Zealand have 24 one-day centuries among them; Virat Kohli has 27 on his own.
Yuvraj Singh, a man who has finished Player-of-the-Tournament in a World Cup and a World T20, is set to play his 300th ODI; this is Bangladesh’s first ever Champions Trophy appearance.
Those fond of recalling the bilateral one-day series of 2015 would do well to remember the warm-up game two weeks ago, when India gave Bangladesh a hiding.
Kohli will not lose focus. He is one win away from leading his side into a major final and will not be distracted by all the palaver about this being a ‘grudge match’.
This tournament has thrown up enough surprises already; India won’t want to be on the receiving end of another.
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