India’s two-Test series against Bangladesh begins on Thursday with more ICC World Test Championship points up for grabs.
The series opens in Indore but you would be forgiven for thinking it actually starts at the Eden Gardens. The talk in the build-up has consistently centered around the second game in Kolkata, which will be played under lights – a historic first for both the teams.
In fact, even a day before the first Test, which will be played with the traditional red cherry, the Indian team chose to test out the pink balls in the nets.
Before the main event though, there are 60 points at stake in Indore. And the question on many a mind is: will Bangladesh be more competitive than Proteas? India completed their world record 11th Test series win on the trot as Virat Kohli and Co swept aside South Africa.
Bangladesh head into the series without veteran opener Tamim Iqbal, who has stayed back home with his wife as she is expecting their second child, and star all-rounder Shakin Al Hasan, who is serving a one-year ban for failing to report corrupt approaches. The Tigers will be led by Mominul Haque and will be hoping to spring a surprise on the in form Indian team.
Having comprehensively defeated South Africa in their last series, the Indian team will be confident of their chances against a Bangladeshi side that lacks experience. The visitors will be banking on senior batsmen Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad to come good against an Indian attack which is high on confidence.
While conventional wisdom suggests Bangladesh would offer more threat on subcontinent conditions than South Africa, who looked a shadow of the side that used to travel so well, the Tigers come into this match on the back of a thrashing at home against Afghanistan. Rashid Khan spun a web around Bangladesh in the one-off Test as the hosts lost by 224 runs.
India's world record run at home
|Series||Number of Tests||Result|
|2012-2013 - India v. Australia||4||India 4-0|
|2013-2014 - India v. West Indies||2||India 2-0|
|2015-2016 - India v. South Africa||4||India 3-0|
|2016-2017 - India v. New Zealand||3||India 3-0|
|2016-2017 - India v. England||5||India 4-0|
|2016-2017 - India v. Bangladesh||1||India 1-0|
|2016-2017 - India v. Australia||4||India 2-1|
|2017-2018 - India v. Sri Lanka||3||India 1-0|
|2017-2018 - India v. Afghanistan||1||India 1-0|
|2018-2019 - India v. West Indies||2||India 2-0|
|2019-2020 - India v. South Africa||3||India 3-0|
As far as the Indian batting is concerned, much of the focus will once again be on Rohit Sharma. The right-hander had a dream first series as opener in Test cricket against South Africa, and will be hoping to build on the momentum.
With Mayank Agarwal firing as well, and skipper Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order, the Indian batting unit will pose a stern test for the likes of Mustafizur Rahaman and Mehidy Hasan.
The hosts have a sweet predicament on their hands as far as their bowling is concerned. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have all been in good form in the recent past and it will be interesting to see what combination is picked.
The track at the Holkar Stadium in Indore has traditionally been good for batting and the boundaries at the ground, especially the side ones, are relatively short, which may prompt Kohli and the team management to stick with three pacers. There is expected to be a tinge of green as well on the Indore pitch, where Test cricket will be played for the second time.
Bangladesh’s chastening defeat against Afghanistan came under the leadership of Shakib. The veteran’s subsequent ban sent Bangladesh cricket in turmoil but a closely-contested T20 International series against India will give them confidence.
On their part, the Indians aren’t taking their opponents, who are expected to have a better understanding of the conditions than the Proteas did, for granted.
“Bangladesh is a very good team,” India’s vice-captain Rahane said. “We played very well against South Africa but that’s in the past now. With the Test Championship, every match is equally important. “We like to take one game at a time and completely respect the Bangladesh team. We are going to play to our strength rather than thinking about theirs.”
Kohli echoed similar thoughts too.
“They are used to playing in similar conditions so we definitely think that they will know their game plan and what they need to do,” the Indian captain said. “We’ll have to play well to get a result, like we have in the past. We’ll not take anyone lightly from Bangladesh. When they play well they can be a very skillful team and they have the ability to play some really good cricket. We’ll have respect for them but more than that we’ll have belief in our own team.”
The pink-ball and floodlights have caught everyone’s attention for this series but for Kohli and Co, the challenge will be to remain focussed on the here and now in Indore as this Bangladesh team does have the knack to step up against India. On this tour, the Tigers have already broken one jinx: a first-ever T20I win against India in their ninth attempt. There is a similar record head-to-head going into this series. India have won seven and drawn two in the previous nine Test matches.
On their second ever visit to India to play the traditional format, the Tigers — inexperienced as they are — will look to pounce on any slip from the ruthless Test juggernaut at home that is Kohli’s side.
India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant.
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (captain), Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah Riyad, Mohammed Mithun, Liton Kumar Das, Mehidy Hasan Miraj, Mustafizur Rahaman, Naeem Hasan, Saif Hasan, Shadman Islam, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed, Ebadot Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat.
Match starts at 9.30 am IST.