Team India opens title defence without Sehwag

Star performers Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan will sit out when India open the defence of their World Twenty20 title against Bangladesh on Saturday.

updated: June 05, 2009 11:59 IST
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Star performers Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan will sit out when India open the defence of their World Twenty20 title against Bangladesh on Saturday.

Swashbuckling opener Sehwag and left-arm seamer Zaheer, who are both battling shoulder injuries, were sidelined for the two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Pakistan ahead of the tournament.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was hesitant to confirm if the duo will play against Bangladesh, but indicated the team was prepared to take the field without the seasoned players.

"I am not sure about Viru (Sehwag) and even though Zaheer has started bowling, it may be too early to risk him," said Dhoni.

However on Friday, it became clear that Rohit Sharma will open the innings along with Gautam Gambhir.

"They are important players for us, but we are trying to adjust without them.

Zaheer suffered the shoulder injury while fielding in the early stages of the recent Indian Premier League in South Africa and was not fit enough to take the field for the Mumbai Indians.

Sehwag's injury happened soon after the team's arrival in England, forcing Dhoni to gamble with 22-year-old Rohit Sharma at the top of the order with Gautam Gambhir.

Sharma shone in Wednesday's warm-up game against Pakistan at the Oval, masterminding India's emphatic nine-wicket win with a superb 80 off 53 balls that was studded with two sixes and six boundaries.

The youngster's 140-run opening stand with Gambhir delighted Dhoni, who said the problem of plenty was a blessing for the team.

"It's nice to see someone filling in so well," said the Indian captain. "When Viru got injured, Rohit said he was keen to open and showed his immense talent in the game against Pakistan.

"I hope he continues in the same way during the tournament."

India's bowling in Zaheer's absence is likely to revolve around the seam attack of Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Rudra Pratap Singh, backed by spinners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.

"We have a good balance in the squad and this gives me a lot of confidence," said Dhoni.

The Indians have only to look back at the 50-overs-a-side World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007, where they were knocked out in the first round by Bangladesh, to know they can't take victory for granted.

Bangladesh may have lost to Australia and Sri Lanka in practice matches this week, but their spirited display in bot games provided the under-achievers a glimmer of hope.

"We need to play to our potential and if we do that, we can surprise a lot of teams," said captain Mohammad Ashraful.

Bangladesh reached the Super Eights of the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 after scoring a surprise win over the West Indies, and Ashraful hoped his team can do it again.

"Reaching the Super Eights is our first goal," he said. "But we are not looking that far yet. We are just gearing for the India game."

Ireland are the third team in the group from where two will advance to the Super Eights.


Bangladesh (from): Mohammad Ashraful (capt), Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Junaid Siddique, Raqibul Hasan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzak, Shahadat Hossain, Syed Rasel, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Rubel Hossain, Shamsur Rahman, Mohammad Mithun.

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha, Irfan Pathan.

Pitch: Seaming conditions.

Start: 1700 GMT

Umpires: Simon Taufel (AUS) and Billy Bowden (NZL)

TV umpire: Nigel Llong (ENG)

Match referee: Chris Broad (referee)