MS Dhoni – will he, won't he? – is the big question going into the 2016 Asia Cup T20 opener between India and Bangladesh on Wednesday.
The India skipper suffered back spasms at the start of the week, forcing the selectors to send Parthiv Patel as wicketkeeper cover. The worry of Dhoni missing the opening match, at the very least, only increased, when the skipper skipped practice on the eve of the first match of the tournament.
While Dhoni is not big on practice just prior to the match, the wicketkeeper-batsman does take part in his favourite warm-up session – a game of football. However, Dhoni decided against doing that on Tuesday, leaving his availability in doubt.
India really need a fit Dhoni for this Asia Cup and World T20 – the latter tournament primarily, since it is the one that matters more – as his replacement Patel is not exactly your perfect T20 prototype.
The team management has revealed that Dhoni is progressing well enough from the back spasm, however, what India must not do is force it with him, and with it risk the captain missing the World T20. If Dhoni is not fit enough, he is not fit enough, and India should go into this opening match against Bangladesh, without the 34-year-old.
Apart from the Dhoni fitness issue, though, there really is nothing much to worry about in terms of team composition for India, with the playing XI pretty well settled at the moment.
Unless this Mirpur wicket looks like taking prodigious turn, Hardik Pandya will keep his place, leaving Pawan Negi and Harbhajan Singh to warm the bench – the ball moved around a fair bit in the final Asia Cup qualifier between UAE and Oman, suggesting this could aid the pacers.
The fact that Pandya is a better T20 batsman will work for him as well, especially if India are forced to go with Patel, who is not the kind of batsman who can smash the ball towards the end of the innings.
Bangladesh have a few selection issues to ponder over. The first of them is who Soumya Sarkar will partner at the top of the innings. Imrul Kayes was selected in the Asia Cup squad for the on-leave Tamim Iqbal, and is one of the choices, while Mohammad Mithun is also an option.
Since Kayes is only on standby for the World T20 and Mithun is a part of the 15-man squad, it makes sense to give the latter a run-out in this Asia Cup T20.
It also looks like Bangladesh might go with Nurul Hasan as the wicketkeeping option, leaving Mushfiqur Rahim to just concentrate on scoring runs with the willow.
Bangladesh's trump card – apart from the obvious Shakib Al Hasan – remains Mustafizur Rahman, who will look to befuddle the India batsmen again with his changes of pace, which caught the much-vaunted batting lineup off guard the last time these two sides played limited-overs cricket.
Possible playing XI: India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (C), Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah.
Bangladesh: Mohammad Mithun, Soumya Sarkar, Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Nurul Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Arafat Sunny, Mustafizur Rahman, Al-Amin Hossain.