It’s not an entirely laughable claim, though it’s not completely true either. After a successful World Cup, Bangladesh are probably the most settled they’ve ever been. Their record at home, especially in One Day Internationals is improving – they whitewashed New Zealand 3-0 in 2013 and, even more recently, handed out similar treatment to Pakistan.
But will this rejuvenated Bangladesh team actually be able to challenge this Indian side? It does seem a difficult prospect.
A full-strength Indian team will be difficult to handle
Despite some murmurs of the need for rest, the selectors have picked the best possible team for the one-off Test and the three ODIs against Bangladesh. Ishant Sharma returns to the Test team, while Karn Sharma keeps his spot. (K.L. Rahul would have, too, had he not been injured.) This will be Virat Kohli’s first tour as full-time captain of the Test team while Wriddhiman Saha, Dhoni’s replacement as wicket-keeper, will be looking to cement his place in the eleven. The most notable inclusion in the Test squad is that of Harbhajan Singh, who played his last Test match in March 2013.
There are no surprises in the ODI squad, unlike the last time India went to Bangladesh in 2014 where Suresh Raina captained a squad which included Parvez Rasool, Amit Mishra and Robin Uthappa. The message from the selectors seems to be: it's business as usual. And, by extension, that Bangladesh has to be taken seriously, especially at home.
The upshot is that this is a strong Indian team which will prove difficult to handle for the Bangla Tigers. India has just returned from a strong showing in a World Cup where few expected them to do well. Motivation might have been an issue, but neither Kohli nor Dhoni are captains who are going to allow that. Besides, the squad has players like Saha, Harbhajan, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara, who’ll be keen on cementing their place.
Bangladesh at their most settled
It’s a good time to be a cricket fan in Bangladesh.
The nation erupted in collective euphoria when Rubel Hossain knocked over James Anderson’s stumps on March 9, 2015 to eliminate England from the World Cup and clinch a place in the quarter-finals for Bangladesh. The loss against India was a dampener but the prevailing sentiment in Bangladesh was that India had won the game only owing to umpiring errors.
The good mood continued with the performance in the ODI series against Pakistan. Despite the loss in the Test series, Bangladesh had reasons to be happy with their performance – in the first Test against Pakistan, their openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes put on a record 312-run partnership in the second innings. That this partnership came when Bangladesh were staring down the barrel after conceding a lead of 296 runs, and allowed them to etch out a draw, makes it even more impressive.
After a long time, the biggest gain for Bangladesh is that they have a settled side. Mahmudullah, who had an excellent World Cup, will be missed but Bangladesh have other men in good form – Tamim Iqbal finally looks like the player he promised to be all these years, while Mushfiqur Rahim, Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar are all in good nick.
Spinners have always been key for Bangladesh and in Shakib Al Hasan they’ve got among the canniest of the lot. However, even the pace attack looks decent, headed by Rubel Hossain who had an impressive World Cup and looks like he has the typical fast bowler’s aggression.
It’s a quietly confident squad and they will fancy themselves. Cricket is a funny game, and on the field, momentum plays a bigger role than just bench strength. Bangladesh certainly have the momentum. And if they do compete hard, we might see the start of another Asian rivalry.
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