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Can Gill & Iyer help India tear down Bangladesh's spin threat?

Last updated on 18 Oct 2023 | 12:40 PM
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Can Gill & Iyer help India tear down Bangladesh's spin threat?

Shakib Al Hasan and Co. rely a lot on their spinners and these two are India’s best batters of spin bowling

The Indian fans have already started believing that this could be their year. The Men in Blue have once again won their first three encounters of the World Cup, something that they did in the last two editions as well, and are looking like the team to beat. Almost everything has clicked for India in the first three games but Rohit Sharma and his men will know they can’t afford to breathe easy. 

England and South Africa probably made that mistake against Afghanistan and the Netherlands respectively, and we all know how that turned out. India’s real problem will start once they qualify for the knockouts, but for now, they need to take care of Bangladesh on Thursday (October 19). Chennai, Delhi and Ahmedabad have already been conquered and India’s journey now moves to the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune.

India have got quite a few things right in this year’s showpiece event. They suffered a top-order collapse against Australia before Virat Kohli and KL Rahul bailed them out. Against Afghanistan and Pakistan, Rohit killed the game in the first powerplay itself. In the bowling department, Jasprit Bumrah has been head and shoulders above the rest, while Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have also been amongst wickets.

Then there is Bangladesh, who have lost their way after starting their campaign with a convincing win against Afghanistan. They suffered a humiliating defeat against England and were then taken out by New Zealand. Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan have done their thing but haven’t found much support from the other players. The Bangladesh skipper suffered a quadriceps injury last week but is likely to play.

Things to watch out for

Watch out for Gill, Iyer

Rohit, Kohli and Rahul have scored the majority of the runs for India in this event, but don’t be surprised if Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer come to their own in this match. Bangladesh rely a lot on their spinners and these two are India’s best batters of spin bowling. Gill made his much-awaited comeback against Pakistan and slammed 16 off 11 before hitting one straight to the fielder. Meanwhile, Iyer scored a sedate fifty in the same game.

Gill, who is the only batter to score more than 1000 runs this year, has an average of 103.83 and a strike rate of 101.8 against spin since 2021. He has been dismissed only six times against spin in this time period. No player has a better average than him against spinners in this time frame. What’s more, he also has the second-highest average against pacers in this time period.

Iyer’s story is no different. The No. 4 batter has an average of 85 and a strike rate of 106.1 against spin in his ODI career. He is one of four batters to have an average of 50+ and an SR of 100+ against spin in ODIs post-WC 2019. Gill is also amongst those four batters, and the aforementioned numbers should be enough to tell you why these two could boss Bangladesh. 

Bumrah brilliant, but what about other seamers?

Bumrah has been in a league of his own, having taken eight wickets @ 11.62 and an economy of 3.44, but the other fast bowlers haven’t been as consistent as they would have liked. Mohammed Siraj and Hardik Pandya have operated at an economy of close to 6.5, while Shardul Thakur (5.37) has bowled only eight overs across two games.

If you take out Bumrah's figures, the Indian pace attack is averaging 33.33 and has an economy of 6.34. Siraj, in particular, is averaging 50.66 and his numbers would have been worse if he hadn’t taken two wickets against Pakistan. Meanwhile, Shardul is a different case. Rohit didn’t trust him enough against Pakistan and gave him only two overs. 

The team management might still stick with him in Pune, considering spinners don’t have a great record at this venue. They have already made it clear that they want someone to contribute with the bat at No. 8 and wouldn’t want to risk playing Mohammed Shami, who is clearly a far better bowler.

Litton, Shakib’s inconsistency with bat hurting Bangladesh

Mushfiqur Rahim (119 runs @ 59.50) has done his job but Bangladesh haven’t got much from Litton Das and Shakib in the batting department. Litton has an average of just 25.1 and has been dismissed for less than 30 in 14 out of 19 innings in ODIs this year. 12 times he has been dismissed inside the first powerplay. In fact, his average of 19.4 is the second-lowest amongst all batters in the powerplay (minimum 100 runs).

He scored 13 against Afghanistan before slamming 76 versus England. Then against New Zealand, the right-hander fell for a golden duck. Meanwhile, Shakib has been Bangladesh’s best bowler but is averaging 18.33 and has a strike rate of less than 70 in this World Cup. Bangladesh got the better of India earlier this year at their home, but playing in Pune is going to be a completely different experience.

Ground details and team combination

The Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium has been a deathbed for spinners in the 50-over format. In three ODIs since 2021, the spinners here have an average of 109.7 and a strike rate of 91, compared to 33.8 and 32.2 respectively of seamers. Overall as well, spinners here have an average of 57.7.

The average first innings score and winning score at this venue has been around 310. India have won four out of seven matches at this venue, while Bangladesh are yet to play a match here. But again, the venue is hosting its first match of the World Cup, so you can never be sure how the surface would behave. Just look at what has been happening in Delhi.

Tactical insights

- Let’s start with the obvious one, shall we? Virat Kohli vs left-arm spin. Here, it’s going to be Kohli vs Shakib. The batting maestro, who has already crafted two fifties in this World Cup, has an average of just 13.1 and a strike rate of 66 against left-arm spin since 2022. He has got out to them eight times in 12 innings. Kohli has the worst average against left-arm spin amongst all batters in the World Cup. What’s more, he has also got out to Shakib five times in 11 innings.

The good thing though for Kohli is that spinners have terrible numbers at this venue and might not find any turn. Overall as well, the right-hander has an average of 67.3 against Bangladesh in 15 innings, studded with three fifties and four centuries. To add to that, Kohli also averages 64 in seven ODIs in Pune.

- Bangladesh have three left-handers in their top-six and that could make Kuldeep’s life slightly easier. Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman and Shoriful Islam are also left-handed batters. The left-arm wristspinner has excellent numbers against LHBs this year. Kuldeep has dismissed 19 LHBs at an average of just 12.8 and a strike rate of 18.

- India need to be wary of Mustafizur Rahman’s off-cutters. The left-arm seamer has relied heavily on his off-cutters for wickets, and it has reaped him well in ODIs. In ODIs since the last World Cup, Mustafizur has taken 24 wickets through his off-cutters and averages 15.1 while bowling such deliveries. 

Probable XIs

India - Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.

Bangladesh - Litton Das, Tanzid Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Shakib Al Hasan (c), Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Towhid Hridoy, Mahmudullah, Taskin Ahmed/Tanzim Hasan, Shoriful Islam, Mustafizur Rahman. 

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