The only surprise on Day 3 of the first Test between India and Bangladesh at Indore was that the Tigers managed to take the match into the third session.
The performance of the Indian bowlers was expected; Shami’s brilliance is the new norm with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma almost matching him step for step. When they tire, skipper Virat Kohli turns to R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – only two of the finest spinners in world cricket at the moment. There is no let-up and the first innings lead was too big a burden for Bangladesh.
Their top order crumbled early and they were reduced to 60/4 by lunch time after India had declared on their overnight score of 493/6. The fought back in the second session, 131 runs in the session and losing only two wickets, thanks largely to Mushfiqur Rahim holding up one end.
But the writing was on the wall and they crumbled early in the final session. It looked far too easy for India and for once even Kohli was lost for words.
“I don’t really know what to say,” said Kohli after the game. “Clinical performances all around. It’s not rocket science. The team is playing very well. I can’t say something which people are not seeing on TV. Fast bowlers are at the top of their game. It looks like a different pitch when they bowl.”
The Indian skipper reserved special praise for Mayank Agarwal, whose 243 in India’s first innings setup the easy win. But as always, his eyes remain firmly set on a higher goal.
Kohli added: “Our focus is to take the Indian cricket higher and higher. Keep the motivation up. Motivate the next lot of players to come in and do the same. Keep the standard of Indian cricket high and in that process we have won more Test matches than any other side and that makes us feel good. The motivation has been right, the intent is right and we don’t care about numbers at all and we are going to keep pushing in that direction.”
This was India’s sixth consecutive Test win, bringing them level with the streak that was achieved under MS Dhoni in 2013 (four vs Aus & two vs WI). It was also India’s 10th win by an innings under Virat Kohli, taking him past the record of 9 under Dhoni. And in almost every match played, this team seems to break some record or the other.
And remember, they are doing all this without the injured Jasprit Bumrah, who in his short Test career so far has established himself as the lynchpin of the Indian bowling attack.
“Right now, Jasprit (Bumrah) is not a part of the attack. So, when he comes back it will be one heck of an attack to counter. It’s a dream bowling combination for any skipper. Even the slip fielders are ready as they know the ball can come any over, having strong bowlers is the most important thing. The numbers and the records are there for everyone to see,” said Kohli.
On India’s last overseas cycle, they were let down by the batting. The bowlers have continued to improve at a rapid rate and they are all immeasurably better than they were two years back. The question that Kohli will be asking his batsmen is whether they have improved quite as much?
As good as India’s batting has been during the home Tests, they have always been very vulnerable to the moving ball. With the day/night Test at the Eden Gardens coming up next, it will be interesting to see how the openers, in particular, fair against the pink ball that aids seamers a lot more than the red ball.
Change, as the fast bowlers have shown, is a constant process. Small improvements have all added up together to now represent a giant leap and as things are, they won’t be easy to stop. But the batsmen have to show that in tougher conditions, they won’t buckle under pressure.