The Indian cricket team heads to Dhaka later this week to play three one-day internationals against Bangladesh, ahead of their much-longer tour of England in the summer.
The tour dates were announced last month, per ESPNcricinfo, during the Indian Premier League and were slotted in the 25-day gap between the Twenty20 league and India's upcoming 73-day-long tour of England, which includes five Tests, five ODIs, a one-off Twenty20 International and three practice games.
The tour, which was part of the original International Cricket Council Future Tours Programme, was agreed upon only in April after the Bangladesh Cricket Board signed on the dotted line to secure four series against India during the ICC executive board meeting.
On expected lines, the Indians announced a second-string side for the Bangladesh series, giving a rest to regulars such as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed.
The 15-man squad would be led by 27-year-old Suresh Raina, whose last ODI was against New Zealand in January this year before he was dropped for the Asia Cup. Only four members of the squad that will tour Bangladesh have tickets to England: Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny and Wriddhiman Saha.
The weakened squad drew some flak from Bangladeshi skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, who said that he did not expect India to take the series "so lightly." He recently told reporters in Mirpur, as reported by ESPNcricinfo:
We have a chance to give a reply on the field. There is extra motivation. They haven't invited us yet so if we do well in this series, it sends a message.
We have defeated their best team in the past. They have a young team, and despite the standard of the IPL, international cricket is a more difficult stage. And one should not forget that if they lose, India will lose, not India A. The pressure will be on them.
Saying so, Mushfiqur has knocked the ball into the court of the Indians and thrown open the challenge. However, while it is understandable that Bangladesh would have wanted to play against a full-strength Indian side, considering the chock-a-block calendar of the A-list Indian players, it was very much an expected and practical call.
However, could we go so far as to say that the Indians, ranked No. 3 in the world in ODIs, have disrespected or belittled the ninth-ranked Bangladesh by naming this seemingly weak squad? Not quite.
The Tigers would be wise not to consider this team incapable of putting up a fight, in spite of the absence of big names.
While naming this 15-man squad, the Indian selectors have given a chance to players who have performed well in the domestic circuit, including the IPL.
Apart from Raina, Robin Uthappa—the 2014 IPL's leading run-scorer (660 runs in 16 matches—makes a return to the Indian side after more than two years.
Kedar Jadhav, who was the highest run-scorer (1223 runs in 11 matches) in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy—India's premier first-class tournament—also finds a place. So does the IPL's leading wicket-taker Mohit Sharma (23 wickets in 16 matches) and left-arm spinner Akshar Patel, who won the emerging player-of-the-season award after taking 17 wickets in as many games.
All 15 members of the Indian squad would be looking at this series with just one motive: to impress the selectors and seal a permanent spot in the national team. Their determination and resolve to do well could just come back and bite Bangladesh if they take the visitors lightly.
Looking at this squad, a probable starting XI for the first game on Sunday would read this way:
Robin Uthappa, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina (c), Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Akshar Patel, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma.
That isn't a very weak-looking side by any means.
Suresh Raina (c), Robin Uthappa, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Wriddhiman Saha, Parvez Rasool, Akshar Patel, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Stuart Binny, Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra.
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