Cricket-mad Bangladesh is currently football-crazy. The ongoing FIFA World Cup is not just watched in this country, but also celebrated in every corner, with the sport ruling most of the conversations. The visiting Indian players were welcomed by flags of Brazil and Argentina in the buildings overlooking their training ground in Dhaka. There’s little cricket paraphernalia for what is the BCB’s first marquee home series this season. International cricket, even if it is India’s first ODI in Bangladesh in seven years, will have to make do as a secondary fan-favourite sport.
Rohit Sharma is back as India’s ODI captain, with KL Rahul his deputy. Virat Kohli has also returned to the side. The star players’ comeback in this format indicates India are starting their preparation for the next year, after sending a second-string side to the recently concluded tour of New Zealand.
Bangladesh will be missing the services of two star players: Tamim Iqbal, the regular ODI captain, who had earlier pulled out of the series because of a groin injury, and Taskin Ahmed, who was ruled out of the series because of a back injury.
Both players have been in good form in ODIs. Tamim has led the side to direct qualification for the World Cup while scoring important runs, and Taskin is seen as the lynchpin of the pace attack these days. Litton Das, who will lead the hosts, has a major role to play with the bat too, opening against a solid Indian bowling attack.
Litton will have seniors in Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah to bank on, while the likes of Afif Hossain, Yasir Ali and Anamul Haque will be expected to step up in their respective roles.
India would not want to take Bangladesh lightly this time, particularly at home where the hosts have not lost a bilateral ODI series since the defeat to England in October 2016. Meanwhile, Bangladesh will rely on their experienced players to get them through.
Bangladesh: WLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Virat Kohli is 30 runs short from becoming the second overseas batter to get 1000 runs in ODIs in Bangladesh, where he averages 80.83. Having been in red-hot form in T20Is of late, there couldn’t be a better place for Kohli to get back into rhythm in ODIs, averaging 21.87 in eight games in the format this year.
Shakib batting at No. 3 should mitigate Tamim’s absence. It would also allow Bangladesh to play an extra batter, which would mostly be Yasir Ali. Taskin is also missing, which means Ebadot could get the nod for his pace.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Litton Das (capt), 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Afif Hossain, 7 Yasir Ali, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Hasan Mahmud, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Ebadot Hossain.
With Shami ruled out of the series on the eve of the first ODI, young quick Umran Malik has been called up replacement. Unless India decide to give Kuldeep Sen a debut, it is likely that both Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar might play. But India’s batting is back to full strength.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Pitch and conditions
It is going to be a typical Mirpur pitch but not the raging turner we see often in Test cricket. The Shere Bangla Stadium had last hosted an ODI in May 2021, but the pitch has mostly produced scores on the higher side while batting first. Dhaka is slightly cooler, with no rain in the forecast.
Stats and trivia
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84