Nottingham: Mahendra Singh Dhoni made a unique and unprecedented statement — that his team stood united — here on Friday.
On the eve of the India versus Bangladesh duel in ICC World Twenty20, the Indian skipper left the media stunned during the pre-match captain’s press conference.
It was not skipper Dhoni alone but the entire Indian team, including the support staff, that made an appearance during what was expected to be a routine media interaction between the press and the skipper.
Then, Dhoni, flanked by his men, read out a statement. “This message is for the people of India, and for Indian cricket fans worldwide and comes from the whole team. That is why we are all here.”
Making a statement
Dhoni added: “As we prepare for the Twenty20 World Cup, we are a superbly united team. The team spirit is as good as it has ever been, with each individual supporting each other, both on and off the field.
“Recent reports in the Indian media of a rift between myself and (Virender) Sehwag amount to nothing but false and irresponsible media (reporting),” he said.
The Indian captain further said: “Our fans and supporters can take confidence from the wonderful unity that continues to exist in the team. We thank our fans for their continued support and look forward to entertaining you during this tournament, into which we go into as a well-prepared, confident and unified Team India.”
Dhoni had been, “hurt”, as team coach Gary Kirsten revealed, by reports in a section of the media that spoke about differences between the skipper and senior batsman Sehwag.
Sehwag, Kirsten said, was suffering from a grade 1 tear in his right shoulder. He said Sehwag was progressing well but was not willing to commit himself to a time-frame for his complete recovery. Sehwag has been ruled out of the first game.
Left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan, another cricketer recovering from fitness concerns (strained bowling shoulder), bowled at the nets at Trent Bridge on Friday. But then, the team-management is unlikely to risk a prime bowler in the early stages of the competition.
Apart from Sehwag and Zaheer, Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja may not figure in the eleven for Saturday’s game. It could, however, be a toss-up between Jadeja and Irfan Pathan for the final spot. Left-arm spinner Ojha has been bowling well but Harbhajan’s greater experience and the ability to clear the ground in the end overs is expected to clinch him a place.
Despite being a strong and balanced side with explosive strikers of the ball and an incisive attack, India will not take Bangladesh lightly. The memories of the debacle against Bangladesh in World Cup 2007 will ensure against any complacency.
India has a healthy blend of right and left-handers, the power hitters and those who can rotate the strike. It is a line-up that can disrupt the rhythm of an attack.
It is an outfit of exemplary energy and intensity levels. Importantly, the side is not daunted by adversity.
The team could, however, have to grapple with chilly conditions at night in a game that begins at 6 p.m. local time (10.30 p.m. IST).
It is becoming increasingly cold in these parts at night and spells of icy winds will not make the players’ job easier. Dew could be a factor during the chase and defending may be a better ploy.
There, traditionally, is a measure of assistance for the pacemen at Trent Bridge. Ishant Sharma & Co. could probe the Bangladesh line-up.
Bangladesh is an enthusiastic fielding side and has in skipper Mohammad Ashraful and paceman Mashrafe Murtaza — despite his IPL misadventure — men who can swing games.
Given that an innings is limited to 20 overs, individual performances can impact a match more in this format.
Shakib Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim have pulled their weight for Bangladesh in the past.
But then, the odds are clearly in favour of the defending champion.
India (from): M.S. Dhoni (captain), G. Gambhir, R. Sharma, S. Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Y. Pathan, I. Pathan, P. Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, R.P. Singh, Ishant Sharma, R. Jadeja, P. Ojha, Zaheer Khan.
Bangaldesh (from): M. Ashraful (captain), Shakib Hasan, Roqibul Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain, Tamim Iqbal, Naeem Islam, Mahmud Ullah, Mohammad Mithun, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqar Rahim, Shamsur Rehman, Syed Rasel, Abdur Razzak, Zunaed Siddique.
Umpires: S. Taufel & B. Bowden. Third umpire: N. Long.
Match referee: C. Broad.
Match starts at 10.30 p.m. IST.