Indore: The action begins with the red cherry but the focus is firmly on the pink ball as a formidable India looks to overpower a depleted-but-gritty Bangladesh in the first Test of a two-match series starting here on Thursday.
The rubber opens here but the buzz and the talk has been consistently centered on the second game in Kolkata, which will be played under lights — a historic first for both the teams.
This is also that one series in the World Test Championship calendar, in which Virat Kohli’s men, currently in the ‘pink of form’, can steamroll the rag-tag opposition well inside four days.
In fact, on paper, it is difficult to imagine how Bangladesh, without Tamim Iqbal and the suspended Shakib Al Hasan, will even be able to compete in a format, which has been their weakest till date.
Having crushed South Africa in their last series, this Indian team, with inarguably their greatest-ever pace unit till date, will definitely be too hot to handle for a side whose best batsman — skipper Mominul Haque — has less than 10 Test hundreds (eight).
Although Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad are committed cricketers but in the longest format, they aren’t exactly formidable names.
Compare that to India’s premier willow wielders — Kohli (26 hundreds), Ajinkya Rahane (11), Cheteshwar Pujara (18). They have 50 plus ton collectively and it will be one hell of a task for the Mustafizur Rahamans, Taijul Islams and Mehidy Hasan Mirajs to stop this line-up.
And before these three even come into play, Bangladesh will have to deal with openers Mayank Agarwal and the indomitable Rohit Sharma, who can make mincemeat of their bowling attack.
Add to it, India’s bowling unit with 800-plus scalps, this is one contest where the ‘David’ looks incapable of slaying the proverbial ‘Goliath’.
Not to forget that Bangladesh, in their last Test match under the mercurial Shakib’s leadership, lost to Afghanistan in a one-off game. Shakbi was ousted from this series owing to a two-year suspension for failing report corrupt approaches to the ICC.
The Indians, however do not want to take anything for granted.
“Bangladesh is a very good team. We played very well against South Africa but that’s past now. With (World) Test Championship, every match is equally important. We like to take one game at a time which is Indore now,” vice-captain Rahane said.
“We completely respect the Bangladesh team and we are going to play to our strength rather than thinking about theirs,” he added.
The track at the Holkar Stadium has always been a batting paradise with ridiculously short side boundaries but there is bounce on offer.
Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are certainties in the pace line-up while Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are expected to make the squad.
Considering the bounce on offer, Ishant Sharma, as the third pacer, has more chance than wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
However, Bangladesh’s track record while facing Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan could well entice Kohli to have second thoughts about including Kuldeep in the playing XI.
For Bangladesh’s young guns, the ‘biggest test’ in the Test will be to stretch this Indian team to the fifth day which looks unlikely at the moment.
India (12): Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav.
Reserves: Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant.
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (captain), Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah Riyad, Mohammed Mithun, Liton Kumar Das, Mehidy Hasan Miraj, Mustafizur Rahaman, Naeem Hasan, Saif Hasan, Shadman Islam, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed, Ebadot Hossain, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat.
Match Starts: 9.30 am.