Pune, Oct 18: Having won their first three matches with ease, the Rohit Sharma-led Indian team will be hoping to avoid the banana peel when it takes on Bangladesh in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium, here on Thursday.
India are the world No. 1 in ICC Rankings and have made a superb start in the World Cup with comprehensive victories against Australia, Afghanistan and arch-rivals Pakistan. They are leading the points table along with New Zealand with six points, occupying the top spot based on a better net run rate.
Bangladesh are in the seventh spot, with just one win from three matches, against Afghanistan, and with a lot of matches yet to be played, are hoping to get their act together and make a mark.
The tournament has come alive with two big upsets -- Afghanistan stunning defending champions England and the Netherlands upsetting South Africa. And that is where the Indians would be hoping to avoid the banana peel and continue to ride the momentum. They can't afford to be complacent, even though they are playing what is in terms of ranking and currently form a weak team.
India's bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said they are not taking the match lightly. The World Cup is a big challenge for the Indian team as it will be playing nine matches in the 10-team tournament at nine different venues. So, they will be encountering nine different conditions, and nine different surfaces and adjusting to the local conditions will be akin to acclimatization on a tour, even though they are playing at home.
"When you enter a World Cup, every team will pose you a challenge. So, from our perspective, maybe any team I don't think we'll take anyone (lightly) - that's the discussion that we had. That's one of the points that we spoke about can happen, but from our point of view, every game - because we are the only side playing on nine different teams, nine different venues, nine different surfaces that offer different challenges for us. So, we want to prepare for that. So maybe Bangladesh or maybe the Netherlands, I think we want to treat that game equally important," said Mhambrey in the pre-game press conference.
Bangladesh do pose a tangible threat to the Indian batters because of their bowling unit -- which includes a good pace bowler in the form of Taskin Ahmed, and two difficult spinners Sheikh Mahedi Hasan and Mehidy Hassan Miraz. But more than these three, the Indian middle-order batters will be wary of the left-arm spin of Shakib Al Hasan as they have found this variety of bowling a virtual minefield to negotiate.
Though there is no guarantee that Shakib, who suffered a left quad injury in Bangladesh's last match against New Zealand in Chennai, will play Thursday's match, Mhambrey said they are worried because being troubled by one bowler or another is part of the game.
"See, when you play as a batsman, some time or somewhere or the other, you will be against someone. If you look at match-ups, there'll be some match-ups saying that he's weak against this, but he's good against that player, bowler especially. But honestly, I don't think any conversation that we have had here (about him). We know he is a good player. He has done well for Bangladesh, he is a champion player, he is handy, he bats for the team, he bowls well, he bowls in the powerplay, he's a quality bowler and I think you got to give that to him," said the India bowling coach.
"But for us really it doesn't really matter. I think for us is that day what we do in terms of our preparation, our execution and we have a game plan," he said.
Another reason why Mhambrey is not worried too much is the superb form of India's batters -- skipper Rohit Sharma has led from the front while Virat Kohli and K.L Rahul too have struck half-centuries so far. Though opener Shubman Gill is after missing a couple of matches due to an injury and will be hoping to get a big one in the next match.
Mhambrey will have fewer worries about his bowling unit as the bowlers have carried India ahead so far, restricting both Australia and Pakistan to 190-+ scores. Jasprit Bumrah has provided an early breakthrough as has been done by Muhammed Siraj. The spin department is well served by Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja, who have been the most successful spinners so far in this event.
On their part, Bangladesh have struggled to impose their game so far. Their spinners have done well with Sheikh Mahedi Hasan claiming 4-71 against England and Shakib Al Hasan claiming 3-30 against Afghanistan.
It's their batting unit that has not clicked collectively, though Shakid and Mushfiqur Rahim have made handy contributions in the middle-order.
Though, India have dominated Bangladesh in ODI head-to-head in the last 35 years, winning 31 matches and losing 8 in 40 (one nor result). In World Cups, they have won three out of the four matches against Bangladesh.
Though the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium will be hosting its seventh ODI match, it will be the first World Cup match at the venue and both teams are not sure what kind of surface they will encounter on Thursday.
Traditionally, it has been a good surface to bat and with short boundaries, the average first innings score has been 307.
"As a team, we think that this surface, prior to this, in this month, if there were any matches or not, data is important to see what happened in past games. But if you look at this surface, it has been a good surface. Overall, consistently, in any match, whether you play T20 or one day, it has been a very good surface," Mhambrey said.
"As a bowling unit, I feel it is a challenging surface. Because the ball comes on the bat very well. It is a small ground, comparatively, you will see other venues, comparatively, it is a small ground. It is a high altitude. So, I think here, more boundaries will be scored, and the sixes will be more. So, it is challenging," he added.
All the more reasons to be wary of their opponents at the MCA Stadium in Pune.