Virat Kohli’s captaincy will be in focus as the sides lock horns in the only Test in Fatullah
India embarks on its tour of Bangladesh – its first Test tour of the country in five years – with a one-off Test match that begins on Wednesday (June 10) and marks the official start of the Virat Kohli era.
Most of the squad has some familiarity with the Khan Saheb Stadium in Fatullah, the venue of the Test, having played a couple of matches in the Asia Cup a year ago. It was not a surface that invited a seam-based attack, and in all probability, India will have both R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh in the starting XI come match day.
The identity of the other bowlers will give a good indication of how Kohli intends to begin his stint as the full-time Indian Test captain. The likely candidates appear to be Ishant Sharma, the leader of the attack and most experienced bowler, alongside Umesh Yadav, whose pace and nip could be handy on a pitch that won’t have much in it.
The batting continues to be India’s strength, and all of M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli himself have had a very good past few months in whites. Shikhar Dhawan was in sublime touch during the team’s last international assignment, the 2015 World Cup. Cheteshwar Pujara is fresh off a county stint with Yorkshire, while Rohit Sharma will be more than eager to take one more step towards nailing down his spot in the Test side.
Given that Harbhajan and Ashwin aren’t short on batting talent, there is the possibility to go in with an extra bowler and only five batsmen – a bold move no doubt, but also one that an adventurous captain like Kohli might take.
“There is every possibility,” averred Kohli, when asked about India going in with five bowlers on match eve. “I certainly believe that to win a Test match you need to take 20 wickets. Out of your batting unit, if two or three people click, you can get a score of 500. So I certainly believe in giving our team the best chance of picking up 20 wickets and that you can do by playing five bowlers. I’m a big fan of the six-five combination.”
Five bowlers will increase India’s chances of taking the 20 wickets it needs to win the match. It will also leave the batting undeniably thinner. Against a Bangladesh side brimming with confidence, that could backfire.
Both teams will come into the match having lost a top-order batsman each. KL Rahul stayed back home due to illness, while Mahmudullah, Bangladesh’s World Cup star, was sidelined due to injury. There is also a cloud over Mushfiqur Rahim, the captain, who is nursing a finger injury and could play as a pure batsman, handing over the gloves to Litton Das for a debut.
Bangladesh did lose the two-match series to Pakistan by a 1-0 margin a month ago in its last series, but it had put up a fight and a half, having swept the One-Day International series 3-0 and won the one-off Twenty20 International.
Bangladesh’s array of spinners, and their ability to exploit the slowness of the pitch, cannot be discounted. Shakib Al Hasan’s towering, all-round presence will, however, be the key to Bangladesh’s fortunes as always.
India: M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Karn Sharma, Varun Aaron.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt, wk), Tamim Iqbal (vice-capt), Abul Hasan, Imrul Kayes, Jubair Hossain, Litton Das (wk), Mohammad Shahid, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan, Shuvagata Hom, Soumya Sarkar, Taijul Islam.