It's been a touch-bit difficult to predict Bangladesh's strategy in the World Cup so far. They seem to tweak their plan in each game. What's also uncertain is to whether the changes that they made in each of those matches worked out well for the team.
When the media were abuzz with regards to Scotland's weakness against spin, coach Chandika Hathurusingha and company decided to field eight batsmen with just Shakib Al Hasan as the specialist spinner. They probably reckoned that the power of the Bangladesh's pace attack and the part-time spinners would have been enough for the Scots. The move clearly didn't work and they ended up taking quite a heavy pounding at Nelson.
In the next match against England, they replaced the extra batsman, Nasir Hossain, with Arafat Sunny; slightly surprising; considering England's powerful pace attack. Arafat, who was most likely brought in to expose England's weakness against spin ended up leaking 42 runs in eight overs and wasn't allowed to complete his quota.
Against New Zealand, Arafat was replaced by Taijul Islam and the Tigers opened with two left-arm spinners. The move was obviously inspired by the fact that New Zealand crumbled against spin the last seven times they played the Tigers. Taijul was picked over Arafat since the former has the ability to scalp wickets, according to the team management, while Arafat is more about restricting runs.
Taijul though ended wicket-less and went for almost six runs an over. Taskin Ahmed had a bad day on the field as well and had it not been for some good bowling from Nasir and Soumya Sarker, the Black Caps would have won the game in a more serene manner.
As they head towards their most crucial encounter of the World Cup this Thursday, the job only gets tougher for the team management. It's going to be difficult to stick to a particular ploy against India who have excelled in every field in the World Cup thus far.
India's bowlers have picked up 60 wickets in the group stages; as a result it won't be a surprise if the Tigers prefer playing Nasir as the eighth batsman in the side. But then again, India's batsmen have been in good form as well and facing them with just four specialist bowlers could prove to be costly.
As per the ongoing discussions, the team management is likely to play four specialist bowlers on Thursday and go in with Nasir. That would mean that Nasir, Soumya, Sabbir Rahman and Mahmudullah Riyad would have to complete the fifth bowler's duty. That would also mean that the four specialist bowlers -- Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan, Taskin and Rubel Hossain -- would have no room for errors.
The decision to pick a batsman over a spinner could be justified by the fact that India play spin well and also the Melbourne Cricket Ground is not expected to provide much turn. In addition, it's expected to rain in the morning tomorrow. In fact, the Tigers were forced to train indoors yesterday morning due to inclement weather.
A glance at the statistics would let you know the players that the Tigers would worry about the most. Virat Kohli averages 126.50 against the Tigers. Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni too have boasted healthy averages against Bangladesh.
The good news for the Tigers is that their two in-form batsmen have traditionally played well against India. Mahmudullah has an average of 50 against India, while Mushfiqur Rahim is the only player in the camp to have scored an ODI century against them.
The other factor is that Bangladesh's batsmen have enjoyed batting against India's spinners. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja both average above 50 against the Tigers. On the other hand, Mohammad Shami took a four-wicket haul against the Tigers the last time he played against them in Fatullah.
India are clear favourites for the game on Thursday. They are in sublime form and lead the head-to-head stats 24 to three. However, the one thing they can't overlook is Bangladesh's momentum; an aspect that surprised England and almost got the better of New Zealand.
As Shakib put it in a press conference yesterday, from here on it's all about having one good day on the field.