A lot has happened before this series. Most of them off the field. Unfortunately, all of them went against Bangladesh. First, there was a delayed start to the prep camp due to a player's strike in Dhaka. Then came the biggest shock of losing their best player Shakib Al Hasan for an ICC code of conduct breach. Bangladesh chose two new skippers for their first full away series against India.
Once the team reached Delhi, their venue of the first match of the series, things got even blighter. This time the air went against the visitors. Delhi's air pollution forced some of the members of the squad, including Head Coach Russell Domingo, Bowling Coach Daniel Vettori, and Batsman Liton Das among others, to wear facemasks during training sessions.
Though the official statement from Domingo showed concern over the pollution issue, the Tiger boss, however, thought the conditions were not unplayable. BCCI and DDCA also stated that it was a "little too late" to postpone the match or change the venue.
Keeping that in mind, the Tigers led in the T20 format by the dependable Mahmudullah, trained well in Delhi before the series opener on Sunday. It is a big series for the visitors in every sense of the word.
Bangladesh has never beaten India in any of the two formats they are going to play in the series. In T20Is, two teams faced off eight times, with India winning all of them. In Test matches, Bangladesh lost seven of the nine matches played against India and two were drawn. In recent times too, Bangladeshi records do not shine in these two formats. The Tigers have lost all the three Test matches played in 2019, one of the defeat came against Afghanistan. On the other hand, Bangladesh played 20 T20Is in the last two years, won only eight of them.
At foreign venues, the record seems worse. Bangladesh played 11 T20Is in 2018 and 2019 in foreign shores, having won only four.
A lot on Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur's shoulders
With the absence of stalwarts like Shakib Al Hasan, Masharfe Mortaza, and Tamim Iqbal, the onus of building a nucleus for the team falls on Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. Mahmudullah is the captain of the team in T20s and Mushfiqur will provide a much-needed spine to the batting line-up. The two have been consistent with performances over the years, but this time around their responsibility mainly will guide their team through tough terrains. Especially when the team is missing their talisman and their best batsman on the same tour, the two will have to come big at all times, both on and off the field.
Without three of their biggest names on the team list, Bangladesh will have to field a fairly young team. And there lies the real challenge for the veterans like Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah. Mushfiqur is having a torrid time with the bat, which would be a worry for the squad. The diminutive right-hander has only three fifty-plus scores in the last 20 T20Is. He has to step up his game. Otherwise, there would be extra pressure on likes of Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, and Mosaddek Hossain. These three certainly have got the experience, but lacks consistency.
Also, the bowling attack consists of the likes of Arafat Sunny and Al Amin Hossain, both of whom are set to play in the international arena after a gap of three years. Shakib's absence makes Sunny the senior spinner in the squad. But whether he still possesses that prowess remains to be seen. In the pace attack, Mahmudullah will have to rely heavily on Mustafizur Rahman and Shafiul Islam.
Given the conditions and ground record, Bangladesh would want to field a batting heavy line-up. Also, the visitors might opt for a quad spin attack with Taijul and Aminul as specialists and Mosaddek and Afif Hossain playing as spinning all-rounders. The team management will likely rely on Mustafiz and Shafiul's experience in the pace department. The rest of the team picks itself.
Probable Line-up: Liton Das, Soumya Sarker, Afif Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah (C), Mosaddek Hossain, Aminul Islam, Naim Sheikh, Taijul Islam, Shafiul Islam, and Mustafizur Rahman.
Records and recent performances suggest that India are the clear favorites in the T20Is. But in the shorter formats, chances of an upset increase for the underdogs.
Former National Batsman Selim Shahed emphasised on the role of the two veterans, "I think Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur will have to take some extra responsibilities as the team is missing Shakib and Tamim. The whole team needs to perform their duties to the fullest. We must utilise all of our resources well."
Regarding the team combination, former national pacer Tareq Aziz Khan thinks that Bangladesh should play with two genuine spinners and two pacers. "Aminul and Taijul should be better options as spinners. In the pace attack, Mustafiz and Shafiul should be picked ahead of Al Amin and Abu Haider."
Tareq also thinks that Bangladesh will be the underdogs and have nothing to lose against a mighty opposition but that gives them the ability to go for an all-out attack, "I think the recent predicament regarding Shakib was a big shock to the whole team. Added to that is the fact that Bangladesh is facing one of the best teams in the world in their home turf. That makes the challenge even greater. I think India is the overwhelming favourites but Bangladesh has nothing to lose. That could work in their favour."