On a day when batting great Sachin Tendulkar threw down the gauntlet to fast bowlers around the world, India’s pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav decided to give him a quick reminder of the quality they possess.
The Indore track, which had a tinge of green at start of the day seemed to be pretty good for batting after the first hour but by skillful use of swing, seam and spin, India’s attack bowled out Bangladesh for a paltry 150 on Day 1.
In reply, at close of play, India had reached 86/1, trailing Bangladesh by just 64 runs. Cheteshwar Pujara 43 not out and Mayank Agarwal 37 not out are at the crease.
Ravi Shastri often speaks about how his team wants to take the conditions – the pitch, the toss, the weather and even the opposition – out of the equation. And while the India head coach is prone to using hyperboles, in this case, his bowlers have backed him to the hilt.
Bangladesh made the odd decision of batting first on a wicket that looked like it would give some help to the bowlers early on. It was odd because there are few attacks that are collectively better than India in the world and the visitors were giving Kohli and his team a chance to get stuck in early.
Perhaps, they felt that they would be able to blunt the attack. Perhaps, they felt South Africa’s poor performance was not a true indicator of an attack that is missing Jasprit Bumrah. Perhaps, they wanted to take the initiative. Perhaps, they were just feeling brave.
But it didn’t take long for India to pop whatever bubble it was. Umesh was straight on the mark. Ishant took an over or two to settle in and from that point on, it was an unrelenting procession of plays and misses.
When Imrul Kayes was eventually dismissed in the sixth over, it wasn’t a surprise. The other opener, Shadman Islam, followed his back to the pavilion without a run being added to the total. 12/2
Shami, brought on as first change, accounted for Mohammad Mithun to reduce the visitors to 31/3.
The runs were coming, the bowling was tight and if there was a chink in India’s armour on the day, it was their catching. They simply failed to take their chances. Ajinkya Rahane, normally one of India’s safe fielders, dropped three catches.
Still, a couple of these misses allowed Bangladesh skipper Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim to piece together a 68-run partnership. It wasn’t a fluent partnership by any means but the runs were vital for the struggling visitors.
With the pacers having got the initial breakthroughs, R Ashwin settled in to give all those watching a masterclass in the art of spin bowling. The Bangladesh batsmen play spin well, at least better than the South Africans but they were simply unable to read the off-spinner’s variations.
Ashwin’s subtle variations were impressive to watch. He relied on his off-spinner and drift to lull the batsmen into a false sense of security and then started mixing in his undercutters and straighter ones.
And it was one of the straighter ones that completed deceived Haque. The Bangladesh skipper decided to leave the ball, thinking it would turn, but it went on with the arm and crashed into the left-hander’s off-stump.
Bangladesh sunk a little deeper into the quicksand when Mahmudullah’s premeditated sweep went horribly wrong to give Ashwin his second.
The key was obviously Mushfiqur Rahim. He was slowly growing in confidence and he knew how to play the long innings. But the manner in which Shami set up the veteran batsman was worth the price of admission.
After Kohli noticed that Ishant was getting the ball to reverse, he quickly brought Shami into the attack from the other end. After a couple of loose deliveries to start the over, he bowlers a couple of outswingers and then got one to jag back into the batsmen and cut through his defence.
Rahim was batting on 43 but he had no chance, and with that, Bangladesh’s last hope of staging a recovery was gone.
The tail was wiped off in quick time and the visitors were bowled out for just 150. Yes, Bangladesh aren’t at their strongest without Tamim Iqbal and the banned Shakib Al Hasan but this Indian attack is fast making a habit of this.
The intensity didn’t drop through the day and the opposition was simply given no breathing room or time to recover this poise.
While Tendulkar threw down the gauntlet to bowlers around the world, this Indian attack seems to be challenging batsmen around the world to step up. Because unless they do, against Shami, Ishant, Umesh, Ashwin and Co, they won’t stand a chance.