Chance for the likes of Rahane, Rayudu, Karthik and Binny to make a mark

Sport, in a microcosmic representation of life, has unfailingly illustrated how individuals or teams faced with crises are liberated as they manically pursue victory. In their own ways, both India and Bangladesh have issues to address, inner demons to vanquish, ahead of their opening engagement in the Asia Cup, here on Wednesday.

Either side has the advantage of hours of game-time under its belt recently. If the South Asian neighbours can invoke their traditional strengths — that have remained subdued lately — the crowd at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium will feel justified about the hours it invests in the contest.

India has been afflicted by a recurring ailment, an inability to consistently collect victories in alien conditions. To make allowance for the general fragility of most teams abroad is to foster mediocrity. M.S. Dhoni's injury-enforced absence will benefit him as well as the rest of the team. Playing the quantum of cricket that he does, a period of rest won’t merely soothe the aching joints, but also free up the mind that would have been clogged with accumulated stress.

The slew of recent media reports about spot-fixing in the IPL won’t have helped as well.

Recast middle-order

Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli would want to find his own voice, expending as much energy on his cricketing nous as run-scoring. With Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, and Dhoni not part of the squad, the middle-order will be slightly recast. For the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu, the opportunity couldn’t have been timed better.

Also, the newer players, such as Stuart Binny, mightn’t carry the baggage of India’s recent defeats as much. “You should ask this question to somebody who’s been part of these matches,” K. Dinesh Karthik said when queried about India losing six of its last eight ODIs. “I am coming into the team fresh. I can say it’s going to be exciting. I’m sure it’s the same for all the players.” The bowling attack is unlikely to be tampered with much.

Woes galore

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has treaded onto one woe-strewn platform after another over the last few days. After losing Tamim Iqbal to an injury, Bangladesh was condemned to a 3-0 defeat in the ODI series at home by Sri Lanka. There was also Shakib-al-Hasan who copped a three-match suspension for an ‘inappropriate gesture on live television.’ Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim recently expressed ‘shock’ at not being consulted for selecting the Asia Cup squad.

There was more than a hint at a communication gap between Rahim and the chief selector, Faruque Ahmed.

Pacer Mashrafe Mortaza, however, sought to play things down. “They (the controversies) haven’t caught my eye. On-field performance will definitely have an effect on our mentality so we have to do well.”

Playing in front of a fiercely zealous home-crowd might just provide the inspiration the team needs.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Varun Aaron, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, K. Dinesh Karthik (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma.

Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Anamul Haque (wk), Imrul Kayes, Shamsur Rahman, Naeem Islam, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Arafat Sunny, Ziaur Rahman, Abdur Razzak, Sohag Gazi, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Rubel Hossain, Shakib-al-Hasan, Al-Amin Hossain.

Play starts at 1.30 p.m. IST.

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