So much has happened outside the cricket field in the past couple of weeks surrounding Bangladesh’s tour of India, it's easy to forget that there is an international match to be played.
First there was uncertainty over Bangladesh's tour going ahead after players went on a strike demanding better pay. Then, the leader of the strike – Shakib Al Hasan – was handed a two-year ban on Tuesday for failing to report a corrupt approach. And to complete the trifecta, the venue for the first T20 between Bangladesh and India – Delhi – got enveloped in a dangerous blanket of toxic smog.
As the two neighbours prepare for the first T20 at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi on Sunday, there will be a lot on the minds of both teams. Here we take a look at a few of them.
Make no mistake, playing any competitive match outdoors in the Indian capital right now is a serious health hazard. Emergency measures are in place with air pollution at toxic levels. Schools have been shut down and residents advised against doing any strenuous outdoor activities. Despite all of this, a four-hour long international T20 is going ahead.
Bangladesh players trained wearing masks but the Indians did not. Officially, there were no complaints but it is obvious both teams will have trouble getting through the night, as was the case in 2017 when India and Sri Lanka played a Test at the venue in December and players on both sides ended up falling sick.
Chance for Shivam Dube
The match is going ahead, so it will be a chance for youngsters on both sides to make an impact. For India, all-rounder Shivam Dube is likely to make his much-awaited debut. Injury to Hardik Pandya means a golden opportunity for the hard-hitting Dube, who grabbed headlines after striking five successive sixes twice in 2018.
The 26-year-old seam-bowling all-rounder can secure his place for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia as Hardik's back injury is serious and there is no certainty over when he will be completely fit and back in the team.
Nothing to lose for Tigers
Bangladesh couldn’t have possibly asked for a worse assignment now. Their players have just come out of a nasty pay dispute with their board, have lost their No 1 player in Shakib for at least a year, and are now being asked to play at a venue that is a genuine health risk.
If they can somehow put all of it aside, they will realise India are considerably weak themselves. There is no Virat Kohli, Hardik or fast bowling ace Jasprit Bumrah. India’s pace attack of Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed seems especially under-cooked.
The Tigers have pushed full-strength Indian teams to the limit in both white-ball formats of late. They can definitely break through this Indian team’s defence.