India will hope to snuff out Bangladesh’s spirit of 2007 at World Cup

In March 2007, soon after India’s cricketers were knocked out of the World Cup in the first round, a TV crew from Trans World Sport interviewed a young cricketer in Delhi.

Wearing a blue T-shirt, black trackpants and with a stud in his left ear, he spoke to them in Hindi about his hopes and dreams.

“I’m basically an attacking batsman,” he said. “I like to chase bowlers and hit them out of the ground. It’s something I’ll try to continue to do throughout my career. Indian fans like players who are totally committed, who always try and score big, and who are filled with a fighting spirit. They’re all things I hope I have.”

He hadn’t yet tasted the big time but he was already aware of what it entailed. “It’s really difficult,” he said. “It’s relentless. You have to make big hundreds consistently, and be different from everyone else. And even that may not be good enough. But I just hope I can make it to the top.”

Four years after that chat, Virat Kohli scored an 82-ball hundred against Bangladesh at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in the opening game of the 2011 World Cup. Another four years on, he started the 2015 campaign with a century, his 22nd, against Pakistan. The boy who hoped he could make it is now India’s finest batsman and on Thursday, he will run into three contemporaries who played such a big part in ensuring that Indian cricket remembers 17 March 2007 in the same way that English football recalls 25 November 1953 when England lost 6-3 to Hungary at Wembley.

Mashrafe Mortaza, the “Narail Express”, who now captains the side, took four for 38 that day in 2007 as India were bowled out for 191, but the run chase was never going to be a formality for a side that defined batting brittleness. Habibul Bashar, the captain and most experienced player, made just one, but Bangladesh found three teenage heroes. Tamim Iqbal, who would turn 18 only three days later, made 51. Shakib Al Hasan, all of 19, made 53, while the 18-year-old Mushfiqur Rahim, as tall as a jockey, finished things off with an unbeaten 56. Between them, they hit five sixes as India were beaten with nine balls to spare.

Cut to the present day and all three will be in the XI who take on India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a quarter-final that is expected to draw a crowd in the region of 90,000. For India, the only link to the 2007 fiasco is MS Dhoni, the current captain who made a three-ball duck that day. Under Dhoni’s stewardship, India have become a truly formidable big-tournament side. They have won 15 straight games at global events, encompassing the 2011 World Cup, the 2013 Champions Trophy and this tournament.

“On paper, India is stronger than Bangladesh and no one has any doubt on that,” said Shakib in the buildup to the match. “But it’s a one-off game. If we have a good day and they have a bad day, you never know.

“It [2007] is in our memory but this is a new game. India are a very good side. It’s going to be hard for us. We are aware of that and up for the challenge.”

India and Bangladesh have met 28 times going back to 1988. The 2007 World Cup win aside, there have been two other Bangladeshi victories. This is the 11th time India will play a knockout game at the World Cup; they have won seven and lost three. For Bangladesh, though they made the Super Eight stage in 2007, this quarter-final represents a brave new world. They played close to their best to beat England and to run New Zealand close.

India have won six straight games without the batsmen operating at anywhere near full potential. After his hundred against Pakistan, Kohli hasn’t passed 50. Rohit Sharma has yet to impose himself and Ajinkya Rahane has had just one big innings, at this venue against South Africa.

Even on the bowling front, there’s scope for improvement. The pace bowlers – Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma – have been exceptional, as has Ravi Ashwin with his off-spin. India have bowled the opposition out in every game so far, but Ravindra Jadeja, who was at the heart of the Champions Trophy triumph, has had an underwhelming tournament. He could be the man Bangladesh target on a vast ground where they succumbed by 92 runs to Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament.

Many Indian fans are already looking ahead to a semi-final against Australia or Pakistan. Dhoni, who remembers the pain of 2007 as well as anyone – irate fans vandalised his house, which was being built, and burned effigies – will not succumb to such complacency. And barring a total Indian implosion, the Tigers’ tale will end here.

Powered by article was written by Dileep Premachandran in Melbourne, for on Wednesday 18th March 2015 00.04 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010