As if braving the polluted Delhi air in their 1st fixture of the ongoing India tour was not enough, Bangladesh are now faced with inarguably the toughest job in world cricket right now – beating India in India. Ask South Africa captain Faf du Plessis if you’re not convinced.
26 wins and 1 loss in 32 Tests: that is India’s record at home since 2013. And that solitary loss came courtesy a brilliant 109 from one of the modern greats Steve Smith in Pune, more than 2 years ago! In these 6 years, some of cricket’s biggest names in Alastair Cook, Joe Root, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Kane Williamson and others have returned empty handed from India after being humbled by Virat Kohli and his men. Frankly, India’s next Test opponents Bangladesh are not expected to do any better in the upcoming Test series – especially when they are missing 2 of their best players in Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.
The 1st Test between the 2 sides starts on Thursday at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, in Indore – a ground which has so far hosted a single Test match in 2016, which India won by 321 runs. Back then, Indian captain Virat Kohli (211), Ajinkya Rahane (188) and Cheteshwar Pujara (101*) ground New Zealand to the dust helped by R Ashwin’s match haul of 13 wickets. Though the surface in Indore this time around is expected to suit the fast bowlers more, it might only make things even more difficult for the tourists.
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Bangladesh have 4 pacers in their Test squad – Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed, Ebadat Hossain and Al-Amin Hossain. Experience-wise only Mustafizur has played more than 10 Tests while the rest have only featured in a total of 13 matches combined. In comparison, India’s least experienced pacer Umesh Yadav is already a veteran of 43 Tests! Taking nothing away from the Bangla pacers potential, the way Indian pacers have been performing under Kohli, it will take a mighty effort from the Bangladesh batsmen to deny them from steamrolling the tourists.
If Bangladesh are hoping for their spinners to provide some respite, Mehidy Hasan and Taijul Islam are in for a baptism by fire which their South African counterparts faced in ample measure during their recent 0-3 series defeat. Proteas first-choice spinners Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and Senuran Muthusamy were belted away for over 1000 runs across the 3 matches while they only had 10 wickets to show for their efforts. On the other hand, Ashwin and Jadeja shared 28 wickets between them and played a key part in South Africa’s eventual drubbing.
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Captain Mominul Haque, however, will bank on the experience of his batsmen including himself to stall, the onslaught from the Indian bowlers. Haque will hope to be ably supported by the likes of Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Imrul Kayes, Liton Das and opener Shadman Islam. But if Mohammed Shami and Co. are able to find their radar early, all the batting might of Haque and his teammates might not be enough to thwart what Kohli has called the ‘best pace bowling attack in the world right now’.
Pujara, Rahane looking forward to the historic pink-ball Test
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So then, is there any hope whatsoever for Bangladesh in Indore? The thing about cricket is that you never know what will actually happen on the ground unless it does. At the start of this month, Bangladesh had never won a T20I vs India but they rewrote that record in the very 1st encounter in Delhi. In Tests, Bangladesh have never beaten India, losing 7 out of 9 games played between the 2 sides. On top of that Bangladesh have too little past experience of playing the longer format in India to draw upon – a one-off Test in Hyderabad in 2018, which the visitors went on to lose by 208 runs. Virat Kohli had scored a double century in that game but Mushfiqur Rahim had led Bangladesh’s reply with a solid century.
Mushfiqur and his team will need to summon the same spirit once again like the fiery batsman did in the Delhi T20I, a few days ago. If they fail to do so, it will only mean India extending their dominating home streak. In the faintest of scenarios, if Bangladesh manage to succeed, it won’t just be a momentous occasion in their own history but will be talked about for years and years in the future.