No longer unbeaten, India chases semifinal spot v Bangladesh

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — When India’s players get on the bus to Edgbaston for their Cricket World Cup match against Bangladesh, there’s one thing they can no longer take onboard: An unbeaten record.

That should spur India on Tuesday, two days after a 31-run loss to England at the same venue, as it seeks again to join Australia in the semifinals.

India was criticized for its slow run chase on Sunday, with MS Dhoni appearing unhurried until it was too late. It sparked claims that India was already thinking ahead to the semifinals by concentrating on its net run-rate and keen to avoid losing any more wickets. India captain Virat Kohli saw it in far simpler terms, saying England’s bowlers were hard to score against.

India batting coach Sanjay Bangar defended Dhoni’s approach to the chase.

“He was striking the ball really well,” Bangar said. “He had good intent. It’s just that the English bowlers stuck to their task really well.”

That won’t placate the conspiracy theorists, who will note how desperate India wants to win on Tuesday in terms of its final four place. The semifinals next week are No. 1 vs. No. 4 at Old Trafford, and No 2 vs. No 3 at Edgbaston, which turns more.

India has an outside chance of topping standings leader Australia. India, even if it wins its last two matches, is more likely to finish No. 2. But it still has a shot at finishing the group stage No. 1.

Regardless, it will be without allrounder Vijay Shankar for the rest of the tournament after he broke his toe while facing teammate Jasprit Bumrah in the nets two weeks ago. Shankar has been replaced by Mayank Agarwal, a top-order batsman who has played two tests for India but has no ODI experience.

The key player for India remains Kohli. The master of the white ball, with 41 ODI centuries, has hit 382 runs in the tournament at an average of 63. After getting only 18 in India’s opener against South Africa, his scores in the five completed matches since then have been 82 (against Australia), 77 (Pakistan), 67 (Afghanistan), 72 (West Indies) and 66 (England).

Mohammed Shami went for 69 runs against England but took five wickets. Fellow Bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja, both handy with the bat, could be set to return for India.

“If you don’t have major contributions from the middle order then someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar lower down becomes really important,” Bangar said. “Anyone who is handy at No. 8, and it could be Jadeja, gives you some freedom. It takes the pressure off those batting at six and seven so that they can start going at the bowling a little earlier.”

After losing to England, India expressed some concern over the short boundary at Edgbaston but Bangar wasn’t bothered, saying “it will be the same wicket and same ground for both teams.”

Bangladesh has beaten India five times — admittedly in 34 matches — and once at the World Cup, so won’t be intimidated. Instead, it is highly motivated as it has an outside chance of advancing. It has a game in hand and will go level with fifth-placed Pakistan, one point behind England, if it beats India.

Pakistan and Bangladesh meet in their last group game on Friday at Lord’s in a match which could potentially offer the winner a coveted last-four place.

Captain Mashrafe Mortaza praised top-ranked ODI allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, who has amassed 476 runs — including centuries against West Indies and England — and taken 10 wickets.

“He’s done everything that he could have done,” Moshrafe said. “To be honest, he’s been the best performer, to me, and for my team I think he’s been the best performer in this World Cup.”