Not a ball has been bowled in the India vs Bangladesh series but already there has been plenty of action. Off the field that is. Sourav Ganguly's elevation as BCCI president, a historic announcement of a Pink Ball Test at the Eden Gardens, the ban on Bangladesh superstar Shakib Al Hasan and finally the 'Airpocalypse' that Delhi is witnessing. The venue for the first match at the Arun Jaitley stadium has been under the scanner due to the severe pollution levels that have gripped Delhi-NCR after the end of Diwali.
Bangladesh players were seen playing with a mask while India's players had no problem. However, the Bangladesh players may not be masking the anguish that they will feel with the loss of Shakib. The all-rounder, one of the best in the world, contributes runs, wickets and leadership skills in abundance. Take him out of the equation and Bangladesh will be facing an uphill task. They have never won a Test or a Twenty20 International against India anywhere and with Shakib's absence, the streak might unfortunately continue unless they play inspired cricket.
For India, it is a chance to fine-tune their Twenty20 preparations after a dominant performance in the Tests against South Africa. It must be remembered that against the Proteas, the Twenty20 series ended 1-1 but they hold the psychological edge against Bangladesh, whom they have defeated in all eight Twenty20 Internationals. Be it the Nidhas Trophy of 2018, the Asia Cup of 2016 or in the World T20, India have always hurt Bangladesh in a big way psychologically. This series gives them a chance to further continue building their momentum.
The series will be an opportunity for Mumbai all-rounder Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur and Rajasthan's Deepak Chahar to show what they bring to the table. There are still around 20 matches that India will play before next year's World T20 in Australia but the Indian team management has said that it would prefer to identify the core of the team without much tinkering. It is time for these youngsters, including spin all-rounder Washington Sundar, to make a case for themselves. Dube's selection in the playing XI will rule out both Manish Pandey and Sanju Samson because the remaining slots are likely to be taken by Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Washington Sundar.
For Bangladesh, they will struggle to fill the Shakib-sized hole that is in the team. With Tamim Iqbal also not available, the batting and bowling have taken a hit. Mahmudullah, their skipper will be the mainstay and the onus will also be on Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim and Soumya Sarker to deliver the goods.
Pitch and weather conditions
Smog! Smog! Smog! The weather in Delhi is currently severe due to the pollution. It will be a miracle if no player falls ill during the course of the match. The pitch in Delhi is traditionally a slow, low turner which will give assistance to the spinners. A total in excess of 160 could be match-winning here.
India have won all eight of their Twenty20 Internationals against Bangladesh. Both teams have played in India only once and it was an absolute thriller, with India winning by one run after Bangladesh spectacularly choked in the 2016 World T20 clash in Bangalore when they needed two runs off three balls with three wickets in hand.