Crucial for India to start on a winning note

India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar during practice session in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, February18. India face Bangladesh in the opening match of cricket's World Cup on Saturday. (AP Photo)
MIRPUR (Bangladesh), February 18 (Agencies):  Bangladesh is in the midst of a cricket fever. Scores of people, not just quintessential fans but entire families, sang and danced in brightly lit streets after Thursday's opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup. The tournament has been welcomed with undiluted passion and happiness. There are expectations from the Bangladesh team as well. Several here believe Shakib Al Hasan's men can ambush bigger teams in familiar conditions. There are whispers too that India could be in for some trouble again.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been pursued with a familiar question in the run-up to the World Cup – ‘Will India seek revenge for the defeat against Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup.’ And the smart Dhoni has answered the queries rather well. He has shown respect to the Bangladesh team even while exuding confidence about India's chances. His replies have been bereft of arrogance that often accompanies teams billed as favourites.
The inaugural clash of the 2011 edition, between India and Bangladesh at the renovated Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Saturday, will be high on emotions. While the Indian team is not talking about revenge, it is keen to erase the memories of a shock defeat to Bangladesh at Port of Spain in 2007.
This time around, India is not only up against a spirited Bangladesh side that walloped New Zealand 4-0 in a home ODI series this season, but also a vocal crowd that could lift the spirits of the host. It is crucial for India to begin its campaign on a winning note. Bangladesh might not be a fancied side but the pressures of the occasion could be huge.
The legendary Sachin Tendulkar, figuring in a remarkable sixth World Cup, will be India's inspiration. Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who appears to have recovered well from niggle in his groin, could figure in the eleven. The left-arm paceman has the experience to excel even on unresponsive pitches with his accuracy and craft.
Zaheer sent down around 10 deliveries without any apparent discomfort but did not bowl a longish spell that would have confirmed his fitness for the match. Dhoni, though, was confident that Zaheer would make it. The largely sand-coloured pitch is expected to play slow. Run-making would demand application and the spinners could come into the picture.
India might be tempted to include leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as the second spinner in the eleven Harbhajan and Chawla can forge a winning partnership of contrasts – but the move is not without risk. Such a ploy, if India persists with seven batsmen and four bowlers, would mean Dhoni's team would enter the match with only two specialist pacemen. In the event of one of the pacemen picking up an injury or going for runs, the skipper might encounter serious problems managing the overs, particularly at the death. There is a selection issue too in batting too. Bangladesh's strength is spin and its three left-arm spinners in skipper Shakib Al Hasan, Abdur Razzak and Suhrawadi Shuvo can both contain and strike at home. The trio often controls play in the middle overs.
The in-form Virat Kohli was the side's first choice for the No. 4 slot. However, fielding a left-hander is an effective ploy while coping with left-arm spin and this factor brings Suresh Raina in the fray. India has the option of pushing Yuvraj Singh, another southpaw, to No. 4 and include Raina to take on the Bangladesh left-arm trio. Given that dew often impacts daynight games here, India would be better off chasing. This is another factor that raises doubts over the inclusion of a second spinner.
Bangladesh is a spirited side that has jelled well this season. Skipper Shakib is a competent all-rounder while Tamil Iqbal and Shahriar Nafees are strokeful top-order batsmen. The inconsistent but talented Mohammad Ashraful and the spunky wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim could influence matches too.
Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain, he can get the ball to reverse, have progressed as pacemen. Saturday's duel has possibilities.

The teams: India (from):
M.S. Dhoni (captain), S. Tendulkar, V. Sehwag, G. Gambhir, V. Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, P. Chawla, M. Patel, S. Raina, A. Nehra, S. Sreesanth, R. Ashwin.

Bangladesh (from):
Shakib Al Hasan (captain), T. Iqbal, S. Nafees, I. Kayes, J. Siddque, M. Ashraful, M. Rahim, A. Razzaq, S. Shuvo, S. Islam, R. Hossain, Mahmudullah, N. Hossain, N. Islam, R. Hasan.