CHENNAI: When Bangladesh were slumped from 128/4 to 136/9 while chasing 187 against India in the first ODI in Mirpur on Sunday, it seemed like they had done it again — cruising towards the target before crumbling like a pack of cards.
The number of balls was never an issue. At one point, they needed 59 runs from 91 balls with six wickets in hand. But they lost four more in a span of 4.4 overs. India had almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat after themselves collapsing for a partly 187 after being asked to bat first. Mehidy Hasan was still there. He knew how to do it — earlier in February, he had taken the hosts from 45/6 to 219/6 against Afghanistan. But even for him, it felt like this could be too much, for one good ball meant it was game over.
However, with Mustafizur Rahman at the other end, Mehidy pulled off a miracle at Mirpur to take them across the line with the highest 10th-wicket partnership for Bangladesh. Mustafizur and Mehidy (unbeaten 38 off 39 balls) added 51 runs in 6.3 overs, going after every Indian pacer who came their way. That India fielded poorly, dropped catches and top edges went four boundaries helped their cause as well. In the end, Mehidy ensured that hearts weren’t the only thing Bangladesh won for their heartening effort as they secured a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
While due credit has to be given to Mehidy and Bangladesh, it is hard not to question a few decisions made by India. Washington Sundar, who had bowled five overs for just 17 runs and had taken two crucial scalps, was never brought back on. Not even when Mehidy’s edges were flying behind the wickets. In fact, the questions began right at the toss when the BCCI announced that Rishabh Pant has been released from the squad after consultation with the medical team in the morning of the match — he was a part of the team training session on Saturday. What more? They did not seek any replacement.
Although, Rishabh has not done well in T20Is, his ODI record in the middle-order since 2021 is less than none. If it was workload management, then there are questions as to why it was left till the morning of the match and why Sanju Samson, who was a part of the squad in New Zealand, was not drafted in for the southpaw. That said, they retained Rahul at No. 5, a spot where he has excelled in the last couple of years. And he turned up his A-game, top-scoring for India with a 70-ball 73 on a surface where other batters failed to find momentum.
Shikhar Dhawan’s struggle continued as he fell to Mehidy before Shakib Al Hasan dismissed the other two. With Ebadot Hossain short-pitched deliveries to help, the veteran all-rounder took a fifer to restrict India to a sub-par total. The innings, once again, threw light on the Indian top-order’s ability to play spin, especially in the limited-overs. “We need to look at how to bat against their spinners in these conditions. The genes are there, these guys grew up playing in such conditions. It is all about handling pressure,” Rohit said after the match.
Going into the series, Rohit said it would not be a cakewalk, and the hosts have proven it to be true. And if the Men in Blue want to turn things around, they would want to take a relook at the team combination and strategies and come back stronger sooner than later.
Brief scores: India 186 in 41.2 ovs (Rahul 73; Shakib 5/36) lost to Bangladesh 187/9 in 46 ovs (Liton 41, Mehidy 38).