It's finally here. In somehow, one of the biggest days in the history of India-Bangladesh cricketing rivalry comes down when the two team lock horns Thursday in the all-Asian second semifinal of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy 2017 to decide who will book the ticket of the grand finale.
After 12 one-day internationals played out over two weeks between eight cricket teams, the eighth version of cricket’s one of the showpiece tournaments comes down to a India-Bangladesh tussle with both sides remembering the history of the fixture with mixed emotions.
Flags of Bangladesh and India will adorn the Edgbaston Cricket Stadium in Birmingham morning, with the stage set for the two Asian giants of international cricket to do entertaining battle once again for the final ticket.
When looking at the Champions Trophy second semifinal, there are three things that immediately come to mind. First, this will be the inaugural Bangladesh-India semifinal in the Champions Trophy history. Second, is it really the teamwork of Bangladesh versus the dominating Indian batting line-up? And three, is ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan on the verge of another landmark?
These neighbouring nations meet for the third time in the recent ICC Cricket event, following encounters in World Cup 2015 - when Defending champions India ended battling Bangladesh’s World Cup with a crushing 109-run win in the quarterfinal- and last year when Bangladesh came agonising close to a remarkable win as India scraped past the spirited Bangladesh by 1 run in the ICC World T20 super-10 clash. Now it is going to be a classic ‘big brother versus little brother’ battle.
And it’s time for the two teams of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 to come together for the second time in one month, this time in Birmingham. Come Thursday, and the world shall be waiting with bated breath to witness yet another humdinger of a match between the two arch rivals.
The “semi-final” is not a new experience for two-time champions and three-time finalists India, but it certainly is for the Tigers who have stunned everyone in this tournament, including beating tournament-favourite New Zealand in the pool stage.
Undoubtedly, India will begin as favourites but not hot favourites but warm enough to suggest it would be an upset if it went to the other way.
The chances of Bangladesh meeting India in the semifinal were never on the cards. And pundit seven Indian cricketers never expected that Bangladesh would join them in the semifinal clash.
But that’s exactly what happened when the ICC Champions Trophy underdogs jumped to the semifinal spot in spectacular fashion from a not-so-ideal situation.
The difference, in essence, may be defined by the fact that before this tournament India had never lost any of their last encounters against Bangladesh since June 21, 2015.
Both sides have produced a fashion of playing exactly befitting its time throughout this splendid tournament; both have been relentless and both teams saw a defeat and remarkable turnaround.
“This team is now in relaxing mood in the camp. We are looking forward the game obviously. At the start of the tournament I said that whatever we achieve in the tournament will be big. So we are happy right now and we are going to take another match with the same approach,” Bangladesh Head Coach Chandika Hathurusingha said.
Tigers are in unchartered territory in this tournament. In fact, their win over New Zealand was their first win of ICC Champion Trophy in main stage because Bangladesh is participating in the tournament in more than a decade, having last been a part of it in 2006 under the captaincy of Habibul Bashar.
Anyone would be willing to put money on India, but for the over-riding factor of the India-Bangladesh rivalry. Tigers are considered to be inferior in this battle, but their recent success in all-three formats of cricket was a timely reminder to India to not take them lightly. But this is the Champion Trophy semifinal and past records would not mean anything in front of hostile crowds.
Since suffering defeat by eight wickets to England in their first pool match, Tigers have been more driven than ever. They have bristled; their batters, especially dashing opener Tamim Iqbal, have been constantly whipping the opposition bowlers. Though the fragility of their opening partnership throughout the competition (a best of 56, two times under 30) will be something that their opponents’ equally superb opening bowlers will be eager to exploit.
“That’s the biggest challenge we had, we knew that they have a good skilled team. We got a right combination of youth and experience. That is the biggest thing I believe,” Hathurusingha said.
“We are not thinking about our opposition too much. India is really favourite. But all we are thinking of this opportunity that we got to show the world that what we can do, how far we have come, trying to our best and enjoy the game,” he added.
India on the other hand, playing in their fifth semifinal, have all the cricketing pedigree and their two previous titles make them by far the one of the most successful nations in Champion Trophy history.
Indians also entered the semifinal as the tournament's form team, having thrashed the favourite South Africa in the do-or-die clash. Now they prepare for a fourth final against their neighbors.
India with their power-packed performance throughout the recent past tournament have emerged as worthy contenders for retaining the Cup alongside the other strong opposition.