Cricket: Lambs in Tests, Tigers in ODIs
Virat Kohli has a good chance to notch up his first Test win as skipper but India must not forget the shorter format is Bangladesh’s forte
Sandeep Kumar Delhi
As the Indian cricket team prepares for another packed calendar, the tour to Bangladesh could be trickier than expected. The series begins with a Test match on June 10, followed by three one-day internationals.
History as well as the stats favour India. Past tours to Bangladesh were a cakewalk, with India winning seven of eight Tests played. The remaining Test was a dull, rain-hit draw.
With that in mind, media speculation was rife about the kind of squad the selectors would choose for this bilateral series.
Given the gruelling four-month stint in Australia for a Test series and then the World Cup, which was followed by the exhausting 56-day Indian Premier League (IPL) season, many expected the selectors to rest at least a few senior players. Others suggested it might be wise to give the young prospects a chance to gain some international experience. Still others speculated that the Bangladesh tour could provide a relaxed swan song for Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag.
To virtually everyone’s surprise, however, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a full-strength team for the tour. The reason? The meteoric rise of Bangladesh in limited-overs cricket. The Bangla tigers have been in blazing form lately. Not only did they make it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, they also completed a historic whitewash over arch rivals Pakistan in the recently concluded bilateral home series.
Now, Bangladesh will be gearing up to avenge their controversial World Cup quarter-final defeat to India, which experts and fans – including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed – blamed on sub-standard umpiring.
So what chance does Bangladesh have against India?
Their achievements in the one-day format are commendable, but when it comes to Tests, things change dramatically. They battered Pakistan convincingly in all the limited-overs matches and even won a few games with more than 10 overs to spare. But in the Test series their bowling failed to make any impact, allowing Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali each to score double centuries in the two matches. Bangladesh’s inability to bowl out Pakistan in either match gave them no chance of winning. Meanwhile, their major players missed the field due to lack of fitness. The Bangladeshi batsmen whipped the ball around the grounds on the placid wicket of Khulna in the first Test, with Tamim Iqbal scoring a double century. The match was drawn. However, after Mushfiqur Rahim requested a sporting wicket for the second Test in Dhaka, the tables turned disastrously and the home team lost the match by 328 runs in four days.
India’s Test squad – which has been in flux for a long time – finally seems to have struck the right balance. The team brilliantly recovered its morale after losing the first two Tests in Australia, and successfully adjusted both its mindset and gameplan. Though earlier reports speculated that Virat Kohli was planning to skip the tour’s lone Test, Chief Selector Sandeep Patil confirmed that no players had asked to be rested. On his first overseas tour as a regular skipper for India, therefore, Kohli has a golden opportunity to register his first Test win as captain.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar returns to the squad after nursing his ankle injury. His performance in the IPL more or less confirms that he is ready to return as India’s lead pacer. Not only did he outshine the likes of Dale Steyn, Trent Boult and Ishant Sharma, he also raised his profile as leader of the most potent pace attack in the tournament.
The series also marks the return of Harbhajan Singh to the national side after a hiatus of two years. The offspinner was given the nod due to the presence of six left-handed batsmen in the Bangladesh lineup. The Indian batting lineup, consisting of Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, is strong enough to sow panic among the Bangladeshi bowlers. And Pujara is back from a satisfactory county stint with Yorkshire.
The teams look well-matched in terms of experience in the five-day format. Apart from Harbhajan and Ishant, not a single player, including Kohli, has played more than 33 Tests. On the other hand, Rahim leads the chart with 45 Tests under his belt.
As India begin a new Test era after Dhoni, Kohli’s aggressive and counterattack strategies will be tested. Bangladesh’s Test records are not at all scary for any visiting teams, especially from the subcontinent, who have
enjoyed a good success rate there. Bangladesh needs to come out with better strategies and a confident approach, whereas India must not become complacent.