Unlike some of the other Indian top-order batsmen, playing in South Africa, New Zealand or in Bangladesh did not matter for stand-in captain Virat Kohli. After yet another dismal start by the openers, Kohli took the onus upon him to score a responsible, match-winning century, 136 (122b, 16x4, 2x6) and steer India to a six-wicket win over Bangladesh in their opening match of the Asia Cup in Fatullah on Wednesday.
Chasing a challenging target of 280 after containing the hosts to 279/7 in the allotted 50 overs, India crossed the line in 49 overs.
Even the fact that returning to the flat sub-continent pitches did not change the fortunes of the Indian openers who are struggling for runs. After Dhawan and Sharma painstakingly shared 50 in 11.2 overs, it was left to skipper Kohli and No. 4 Ajinkya Rahane to restore some credibility to the Indian ranks in their pursuit of a competitive target.
Joining hands at 54/2 in the 13th over, Kohli and Rahane shared 213 for the third wicket. Kohli fell in the 46th over and by that time, he had ensured that his team was safe and almost home.
Kohli is not the kind of batsman who lets captaincy get the better of him. In fact, the 25-year-old Delhi Dasher, who scored his third century as ODI captain and 19th overall, seems to thrive with the additional responsibility.
Kohli, as he has been showing maturity way beyond his age and has shouldered the responsibility of the Indian batting in recent times, paced his innings brilliantly, never giving Bangladesh any cushion, especially after Dhawan and Sharma fell.
Dhawan was trapped leg before while playing across to left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak while Sharma was done in by a moving delivery to lose his middle stump to medium-pacer Ziaur Rahman.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers continued to be pathetic, letting Bangladesh batsmen, sent in to bat by Kohli, to score at more than 5.50 per over. Barring Mohammad Shami, who picked up 4/50, none of the Indian bowlers did anything noteworthy.
Bangladesh rode on a sparkling century from their diminutive captain Mushfiqur Rahman (117, 113b, 7x4, 2x6) and his 133-run partnership for the third wicket with opener Anamul Haque, who made 77.
Rahim struck a career-best score to help Bangladesh post a healthy total. He took control of the middle overs with ease as he rotated the strike cleverly and also came up with some lusty blows to unsettle the Indian attack.
Haque, too, was impressive, striking five fours and three sixes off 106 deliveries. He struck two of those sixes off pace bowler Varun Aaron and reached his half-century with a straight six off tweaker Ravichandran Ashwin, who has changed his action to what resembles that of West Indian Sunil Narine's.
Haque was out when he inside-edged a full-length delivery from Aaron on to the stumps. Aaron also got the stick from Rahim, who once hit him for 16 runs off the first four deliveries of an over including a six over square leg, before the pace bowler let go a beamer that hit Rahim on the chest when the batsman was on 80. Aaron was not allowed to bowl again for dangerous play since it was his second full toss above waist height during the innings. Aaron conceded 74 runs off 7.5 overs.
—(With agency inputs)