There is a difference between getting thrashed in the subcontinent and being comprehensively beaten outside it. The latter, despite India’s victorious World Twenty20 and Champions Trophy campaigns, isn’t unfamiliar with this India team. But not since the ODI series against Pakistan in 2012-13 have India lost a rubber going into the third game in the subcontinent.
Playing in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England is always a test of skill. In the subcontinent though, it has been skewed in India’s favour for a long time. At home, Sri Lanka were thrashed 5-0, West Indies edged out 2-1, Australia were pipped 3-2 and England were defeated 3-2 after their Test series win. Bangladesh have intruded into India’s happy space in a matter of just two matches. Sending a full team was India’s acknowledgement of Bangladesh’s strength.
What they couldn’t comprehend is how much a threat Bangladesh could be. India were bowled out in both the matches. They have failed to chase or set a target. Catches have been dropped. And apart from R Ashwin, no bowler has got respect from Bangladesh batsmen. Changes were random and a lack of planning was too apparent.
MS Dhoni has admitted Bangladesh have played better cricket. But they have also been smarter at playing mind games. The hoopla apart, Bangladesh were in India’s face all the time without being confrontational. India cracked. After the first match, Rohit Sharma said there was no pressure, only to go back on it and say that India have everything to lose in this series.
Next day, Dhawal Kulkarni repeatedly ran into the Bangladesh batsmen instead of trying to make the chance count. This loss brought out a side of Dhoni that has never been seen before. And on Tuesday, Ashwin felt compelled to remind everyone that India have won 75% of their matches this season while conceding that Bangladesh ‘owned Mirpur stadium’.
At home, or in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, India had similarly owned many such matches and moments for well over a decade. The clock has to be turned to 1997 to find the last time India were not given an inch in a bilateral series – a 0-3 loss to Sri Lanka. Bangladesh are on the cusp of inflicting on India a result unthinkable for many years.