World Cups. Selections. Injuries. Lose series. Red ball in hand, India must quickly put these things aside and now shift focus to the World Test Championship. Having played just five Tests this year, losing all three away games, India is now bracing for a two-Test series against Bangladesh, who are also formidable at home but haven’t had a great run there since 2021.
India’s eyes will be on their WTC opportunities; they currently sit fourth in the table behind Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and have six Tests remaining in this cycle – two in Bangladesh and four at home to Australia. India can only afford to lose one, so they can’t afford to get rusty, even though they last played a Test five months ago. They are also without some of their best test players Rohit Sharma (at least for the first game), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja, which puts the responsibility on substitute captain KL Rahul to rally his troops and make the most of a free inexperienced bowling strike. R Ashwin and Umesh Yadav may have played more than 50 Tests each, but even the most recent dates back to early 2022.
The last time India played a Test in Bangladesh was way back in 2015 – a rain-drenched draw at Fatullah – and while India has never lost a Test in Bangladesh, the host team is nothing like it was seven years ago. Bangladesh has since started to fry bigger fish like England and Australia with a more powerful spin attack on spinning tracks, but they won’t be proud of their home record since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. They suffered 2-0 against the West Indies and Pakistan last year and lost 1-0 to Sri Lanka this year.
However, they could take confidence in having done a good job for the most part in Chattogram, the venue of the first Test against India, and they scored 465 the last time they were there, facing Sri Lanka in May. Like that game, Bangladesh will likely be without the feisty Taskin Ahmed, and could be further weakened if Shakib Al Hasan doesn’t make it after being hit on the ribcage by Umran Malik in the second ODI. He was taken for a preventive checkup on Tuesday and is still under observation.
Their mid-order of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib and Litton Das will have to do the heavy lifting unless Mahmudul Hasan Joy, who scored four low scores against India A ahead of this series, comes into form in the company of Zakir Hasan who will likely to debut after big runs, including a 173, against India A in the last two weeks. Bangladesh will also have little experience with their offense, making it a somewhat even game in some ways.
bangladesh LLLDL (Last five matches, most recent first)
A forgettable T20 World Cup, a solid 73 out of 70 to kick off the Bangladesh tour, the added responsibility of captaining and being the senior opener in Rohit’s absence brings KL Rahul in the spotlight. Like all India’s players, he can set aside the performance pressure to keep his name in contention for a World Cup in his home country for now, and just do what he’s done pretty well over the past two years. Play test cricket.
Ebadot Hossain, Khaled Ahmed and Shoriful Islam are likely to form Bangladesh’s attack in the absence of Taskin, while Mehidy and Shakib will take on spin responsibilities. Nurul Hasan keeps the wicket and Zakir opens the batter on his debut.
bangladesh (possibly): 1 Mahmudul Hasan Joy, 2 Zakir Hasan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Litton Das, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Shoriful Islam, 10 Khaled Ahmed, 11 Ebadot Hossain
The first question for India is who will open in Rohit’s absence? Shubman Gill has not done much wrong in his fledgling Test career but there is also Abhimanyu Easwaran who comes on punches of 157 and 141 in the two matches against Bangladesh A and also has the experience of playing Bangladesh tracks after hitting nine Dhaka Premier played League games earlier this year. With a batting friendly delivery expected, India will play five bowlers, meaning two spinners and two quicks, leaving fifth spot as a toss-up between a third sailor or spinner, depending on the circumstances. Will Jaydev Unadkat get a game as a left arm option? He has the best average in first-class cricket since January 2019, having bowled mostly on flat fields in India.
India (possibly): 1 KL Rahul (capt), 2 Shubman Gill/Abhimanyu Easwaran, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 R Ashwin, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Known for the pistes it offers, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium is expected to return to level ground with dry weather and temperatures reaching up to 27°C in the next five days.
“We need to go to bed, it’s as simple as that. You can’t watch football until three in the morning and play the test that starts at half past nine. It’s stupid. I’d be disappointed if they did.”
Bangladeshi coach Russell Domingo doesn’t come across as a Messi fan as he doesn’t mind missing the World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Croatia
“We’re playing Test cricket after a long time, it takes a while for that mental change to happen. There are discussions going on, we’ve talked about it well; there have been lengthy discussions and that has happened for a lot of teams.”
Bowling Coach India Paras Mhambrey addresses the challenge of his team having to transition to the testing format after five months