A rejuvenated India would aim to redeem their tarnished pride and end a 15-year-old jinx when they start their Asia Cup cricket campaign against Bangladesh at the Rangiri Dambulla ground on Wednesday.
Hurting from their debacles in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup (West Indies) and the tri-series in Zimbabwe, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men would be desperate to win back the confidence of fans after being accused of being more loyal to their IPL teams than the country.
The Asia Cup title, which they last won in 1995, will be the perfect balm to calm frayed nerves and bury the ghosts of the recent past.
Unlike in the West Indies and Zimbabwe, India have a near full-strength team to achieve what they have set out for.
Except for Sachin Tendulkar, who opted to spend time with his family, and Yuvraj Singh, dropped for poor form, India more or less have the nucleus of the 2011 World Cup team.
Virender Sehwag’s return provides the firepower to the batting which had been rudderless without substantial starts at the top of the order.
The Delhi marauder, who was nursing a shoulder injury, is arguably one of the most feared batsman in international cricket capable of demolishing any attack on his day.
Dhoni would be looking forward to fireworks from his deputy to reignite the confidence of his beleaguered legion.
If Sehwag can provide a blistering start in the company of Gautam Gambhir, the rest of the batting, propped up by the youthful exuberance of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli should be capable of holding its own in the four-nation event.
Dhoni would also be itching to set the record straight, especially after his leadership was questioned in the immediate aftermath of the Twenty20 World Cup.
He might bat up the order, probably at four or five, depending on the start provided by the top-half.
If the batsmen conjure match-winning totals, the Indian bowling, which has been a subject of debate over the last six months, should be able to provide the results that the fans have longed for since the successful conquest against South Africa at home in March.
The new ball will be shared by Zaheer Khan, Asish Nehra and Praveen Kumar, who has been fortunate to regain his place in the side despite dismal performances in the past.
It augurs well that Zaheer, who was virtually on his haunches during the unsuccessful campaign in the Twenty20 World Cup after an enervating IPL, looks rearing to go following the break.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha should play the supporting cast to Harbhajan Singh in the spin department.
Though the four-time Asia Cup champions start favorites, they can’t take Bangladesh lightly. Shakib-Ul Hasan’s men have pulled off upsets in the past and could do so here as well.
“We want to improve every time we go on to the field and want to win games. We have the potential to win matches.
Hopefully, we can some games here,” said Shakib.
The teams (from):
India: M S Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Asish Nehra, Ashok Dinda, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sourabh Tiwari.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (capt), Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Jahurul Islam, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Mahmudullah, Mushrafe Mortaza, Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzak, Syed Rasel, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul islam, Suhrawadi Shuvo.
Match starts at 2.30pm (IST).