Bangladesh face on-song India with fond memories of Asia Cup 2018

Bangladesh pose after winning the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier, 2019. © ICC

Is it a big game? Or just another one? 

I’m not quite sure. Are you? Do you believe the Indians, when they say they aren’t thinking about the 2018 Asia Cup, in which they were famously dethroned by Bangladesh in dramatic circumstances? Do you believe the Bangladeshis when they say that off the field, there is great friendship between these two teams, because they are neighbours? 

Or are both teams fully aware that this Group A game in the T20 World Cup could be more than that. Are both teams channelling the recent cricketing animosity between their men’s teams, the recent petulance of the Under-19 teams, and the recent cricketing history between the women’s teams, to set the stage for a grudge match?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. 

There is a general acceptance that women’s cricket is ‘nicer’ than men’s cricket. There is less abuse. The sledging is wittier, less often bitter. The match referee isn’t called upon very often, and the rivalries have less of an edge.

But the best rivalries need evenly matched sides, and on paper, India and Bangladesh are not.

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India shook off the loss in the Asia Cup to reach the semifinals of the 2018 WT20, while Bangladesh did not win a single game in that tournament. Leading into this one, India have notched up wins over Australia and England in a tightly contested tri-series; Bangladesh have come in without having played much cricket against quality opposition. 

Since the Asia Cup, Bangladesh have not faced a top-six side in a bilateral series. They eventually traveled to Pakistan in 2019, only to be whitewashed. They have played the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier 2019, which they won, and a recent series in India featuring Thailand and the India A and B teams, which they also won. But coming into the most fiercely competitive World Cup, the lack of high quality cricket will be sorely missed.

Meanwhile, much water had flown under many bridges since the 2018 Asia Cup. Since then they have churned through two coaches before arriving on WV Raman. Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami have both retired from T20Is, and the average age of the side is around 23, so there aren’t as many players that carry baggage from previous losses.

“We have one talk regularly in our dressing room every day, and that is not to get distracted. So I think that is something that everybody has taken seriously, and we know what we have to do,” said Veda Krishnamurthy ahead of the game. India also go into the day-night fixture with significantly more experience of playing under lights than Bangladesh. They played a four-match series at home last year, hosting South Africa, and every fixture was under lights. As was their opener against Australia. Bangladesh meanwhile have not even had a practice session under lights in Australia, and will be pitchforked into the dark of the evening at the WACA for opening game. They will only rely on a few practice sessions under lights in Dhaka, in the lead up to the tournament, for familiarity. 

Salma Khatun, whose comments were translated by the team manager, chose to downplay any talk of rivalry. “It’s pretty obvious that during the match each team has that competition between them. But that is on the match. But we’ll try to show our best sportsmanship. Off the field these two countries are really good friends because we are neighbours. So we are not taking it as rivalry, we’re taking it as sportsmanship,” she said. 

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Both teams have leg spinners returning from injury, who will be the focus of the respective bowling sides. Poonam Yadav is the talk of the World Cup after single-handedly turning India’s opening game on it’s head, after missing the tri series with a fractured finger. And Rumana Ahmed comes back from injury. Fast bowlers Jahanara Alam and Shikha Pandey come into the game with wickets, and will enjoy bowling at the WACA. But also watch out for a couple of young batters: Shafali Verma for India, and Murshida Khatun for Bangladesh. The 20-year old scored 43 in Bangladesh’s warm-up game win against Pakistan. 

So is this a big game? Only in the sense that every game is. Every game in the biggest T20 World Cup for women ever.