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India vs Bangladesh: Here Comes the Latest Installment of a Prickly Rivalry

Birmingham: None of them will say it on record, but if there's one team, players from India hate losing to, it's Bangladesh. And vice-versa.

Karthik Lakshmanan |July 2, 2019, 2:14 PM IST
India vs Bangladesh: Here Comes the Latest Installment of a Prickly Rivalry

Birmingham: None of them will say it on record, but if there's one team, players from India hate losing to, it's Bangladesh. And vice-versa.

India vs Bangladesh is the growing rivalry in Asia. India vs Pakistan is all hype, but the actual cricket is one-sided often in India's way. The last close India-Pakistan match was in the Asia Cup 2014, when Shahid Afridi took Pakistan to a one-wicket win in the last over hitting R Ashwin for two sixes. India won convincingly in eight of the nine subsequent meetings, while Pakistan won easily in the other - the Champions Trophy 2017 final.

Bangladesh haven't defeated India since their ODI series win at home in 2015, but the matches have gotten increasingly closer. Bangladesh have somehow choked in each of the thrillers, but have generally been competitive.

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Bangladesh hate losing to India because of the power equations outside the control of the players. Things were fine in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when India lent a helping hand to elevate Bangladesh to Test status. It was India who played Bangladesh's first ever Test, in Dhaka in November 2000.

But India did little else in the years that followed. They toured Bangladesh when their calendar allowed them, often sending second-string teams. India refused to host Bangladesh in bilaterals too; Bangladesh had to wait 17 years for their first bilateral tour to India, which too was for a lone Test.

Bangladesh hurt India big upseting them in the World Cup 2007, but it was just that - an upset. They struggled to compete consistently, but the burning desire to beat India remained. Three years after that World Cup, Virender Sehwag called "Bangladesh are an ordinary side. They can't beat India because they can't take 20 wickets" ahead of a Test series. In reply, Shakib Al Hasan said "India are ranked No. 1 recently but I think South Africa and Australia are much better than them."

The rise of social media added oil to the flames. Bangladesh fans were outraged that a marginal no-ball call reprieved eventual centurion Rohit Sharma in their first ever World Cup knockout, the quarterfinal at MCG in 2015.

A few months later, a few Bangladesh fans allegedly attacked Team India superfan Sudhir Gautam in Dhaka during their 2-1 one-day series win.

There was more immature social media behaviour on display when fans photoshopped an image of Taskin Ahmed holding MS Dhoni's severed head in the Asia Cup 2016. Weeks after that, Mushfiqur Rahim posted a photo celebrating India's loss to West Indies in the World T20 semifinal. This, after a premature celebration in the last over of their clash in Bangalore cost Bangladesh a match they should have won.

Over the next two years, there were a couple more close matches against India where they choked too. The Nidahas Trophy in March 2018 was almost in their hands before Dinesh Karthik brutally snatched it away in the last over.

The Asia Cup in the same year went into the last ball too, with India once again emerging on the right side of the result.

Their passionate, often premature, celebrations - remember the naagin dance in the Nidahas Trophy? - has become a thing of ridicule for outsiders. It forced Sri Lankan fans to support India in the final of the Nidahas Trophy.


Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza played down the impact of fans' pressure on the team.

"I don't think it's psychological. It's all about skill," he said of the narrow losses to India ahead of their game in Birmingham. "Obviously, cricket is a psychological game. Fans are doing whatever they are thinking. I don't think when we are playing in the middle it's helping us because all the pressure has to be handled by the players.

"It depends man to man on who will take pressure. It's a good thing that people are supporting Bangladesh cricket team. Obviously, they want us to win, which is normal. Obviously, Indian fans also supporting Indian team, and they want to win. So it's a normal thing."

The nature of the matches and noise from outside have made victories even sweeter, not just for fans but for Indian players too. The Bangladesh chokes have been fun to watch for India and their fans, but the consistent close margins also indicate the rise of their neighbours. Bangladesh are no longer an 'ordinary' side. Neither would it be an unimaginable upset if they beat India, as they have threatened to do multiple times recently.

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