The T20I series is done and dusted and the focus now shifts to the pinnacle of the sports — Test cricket. The Bangla Tigers gave a good account of them in the shorter format series despite their ongoing problems as they sprung a major surprise in the first match with their maiden victory over the hosts in T20Is. But the recent past suggests that you don’t do that for long to India at home. The loss in first match woke up Indians immediately and the home team bounced back strongly to wrap up the series 2-1.
Still, one must doff their hat to the visitors for the manner in which they ran their rivals close. Mind you, this Bangladesh squad were without the explosive Tamim Iqbal, who pulled out of the tour due to personal reasons, and mercurial Shakib Al Hasan, who is serving an ICC ban for failing to report corrupt approach. And they should carry that confidence into Test series. But apart from that, there’s very little working in their favour.
The world No 9 team is now in the den of No 1 side. In 17 away Tests since 2013, Bangladesh have lost 14, winning just two and drawing one. While India in the same period have virtually won everything at home. Their last home series defeat came against England in 2012 and their last Test loss at home came against Australia in 2017. Virat Kohli and Co steamrolling Test sides at home has been a common theme for a while now. It’s getting boring but the numbers keep getting more impressive.
What makes the task even more daunting for the visiting side is the return of run-machine-cum-captain Kohli to the side, who enjoyed a well-deserved break during the T20I series. A refreshed Kohli is back to what he likes doing the most - scoring runs and winning matches as the leader of the pack. Along with him making returns are the heavyweights like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and others.
The depleted Bangla squad have a new captain in Mominul Haque who replaced Shakib. Mominul will share the majority of run scoring duty with the experienced duo of Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. The bowling attack would be led by the talented Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan. The gulf in class between the squads speaks a lot. Sample this, Bangladesh’s batsmen have 21 Test tons among them while Kohli alone has 26 to his name. India at the same time also boast arguably the best bowling attack in the world.
The series comprises of Two Tests and things get underway at Indore. However, all the focus has been around the historic pink-ball Test in Kolkata.
"I think it's a new way to bring excitement in Test cricket,” said Kohli ahead of the first Test. “The pink ball I played with yesterday, felt like it swings a lot more compared to the red ball. You require extra concentration to pick the pink ball suddenly when you are playing with red ball."
Reports suggest that conditions at the Holkar Stadium will suit the pacers while Kolkata has transformed into a happy hunting ground for fast bowlers in recent years. And we can guarantee that Shami and Umesh Yadav are already salivating.
Snaps of Bangladesh team today's practice session at Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore ahead of the First Test. pic.twitter.com/miTD4hszrn
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) November 12, 2019
In such conditions, Kohli is mostly expected to once again unleash a three-pronged pace attack with Ishant Sharma completing the trio. Ashwin and Jadeja are a surety at home and this could mean a longer time on the bench for Hanuma Vihari. Rest all the slots are automatic choices.
While winning a match looks improbable at this stage for Bangladesh, their focus certainly would be on impressing with their performance. On the other hand, as the No 1 side in the world, Kohli would be expecting another complete performance from his men. Hence it’s important for the hosts to stay away from complacency at every cost, especially given how they clean swept South Africa at home last month, and Kohli was wary of the fact with the series about to start tomorrow.
"We will not take any batsman or bowler from Bangladesh lightly. When they play well, they can be a very skilful team," Kohli added.
Everything so far has denoted the series as a heavily one-sided contest, yet, that would not reduce the significance of the series for either of the sides. And that is so because of World Test Championship. India currently sit at the top of the table with five wins in five matches and 240 points, they can soar their tally to 360 points with a series sweep. Every point is an added bonus for Team India and should act as the much-needed cushion when they travel to the tougher pastures of SENA - South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia.
For Bangladesh, it will be their first venturing into the championship and as they say well begun is half done. There’s no doubt that India are a formidable (speak with a lot of stress) opposition at home but, if T20I series is anything to go by, we know that the Tigers would not surrender without a fight.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Jadeja, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant.
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (C), Al-Amin Hossain, Imrul Kayes, Shadman Islam, Saif Hassan, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehedy Hasan, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Taijul Islam, Nayeem Hasam, Mustafizur Rahman, Ebadat Hossain
(The match will broadcast on Star Sports Network and Hotstar. You can also follow the over-by-over commentary of the match on Firstpost.com)
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The fact that star players Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal are sidelined added to a lack of confidence in the camp after losing eight straight Twenty20 internationals, meaning Pakistan will start as overwhelming favourites.
Pujara said he didn't make major changes to his technique and it was just the fearless approach which helped him score runs in England Tests after facing criticism for lack of intent
Rahane, who averages 19 in 11 Test matches this year, seemed under visible pressure as he reasoned that even a "30, 40 or 50" from a specialist top-order batter would be an acceptable contribution provided the team wins.