India look to climb up WTC table as Bangladesh watch Shakib’s fitness

Big Picture

World Cups. Selections. Injuries. Series losses. With the red ball in hand, India need to quickly put these things aside and shift focus to the World Test Championship now. India have played only five Tests this year, lost all three that were played away, and now brace themselves 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 firmly on their WTC chances; they currently sit fourth on the table behind Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and have six Tests left in this cycle – two in Bangladesh and four against Australia at home. India can only afford to lose one of those, so they cannot afford to go in rusty, even if they last played a Test five months ago. They are also without some of their prime Test players Rohit Sharma (at least for the first game), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja which puts the onus on stand-in captain KL Rahul to rally his troops and get the most out of a fairly inexperienced bowling attack. R Ashwin and Umesh Yadav may have played more than 50 Tests each but even the most recent of them date back to early 2022.

The last time India played a Test in Bangladesh was way back in 2015 – a rain-affected draw in Fatullah – and even though India have never lost a Test in Bangladesh, the host team is nothing like it was seven years ago. Bangladesh have since started frying bigger fish such as England and Australia with a more potent spin attack on turning tracks, but they won’t be proud of their home record since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. They suffered 2-0 whitewashes against West Indies and Pakistan last year, and lost 1-0 to Sri Lanka this year.

They could, however, draw confidence from the fact that they have mostly batted well in Chattogram, the venue of the first Test against India, and they scored 465 the last time they were there, opposite Sri Lanka in May. Just like that game, Bangladesh will likely be without the zippy Taskin Ahmed, and could be weakened further if Shakib Al Hasan doesn’t make the cut after being hit on his rib cage by Umran Malik in the second ODI. He was taken for a precautionary check on Tuesday and is still under observation.

Their middle order of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib and Litton Das will have to do the heavy lifting unless Mahmudul Hasan Joy, who bagged four low scores against India A in the lead up to this series, strikes form in the company of Zakir Hasan, who is likely to debut on the back of big runs, including a 173, against India A in the last two weeks. Bangladesh too will be without much experience in their attack which makes it a slightly even contest in some ways.

Recent form

Bangladesh LLLDL (Last five matches, most recent first)

India LWWLL

In the spotlight

A forgettable T20 World Cup, a solid 73 off 70 to kick off the Bangladesh tour, the added responsibility of captaincy and being the senior opener in the absence of Rohit brings KL Rahul into the spotlight. Like all of India’s players, he can, for the moment, set aside the pressure of performing to keep his name in contention for a home World Cup, and just do what he has done quite well over the last two years. Play Test cricket.

Team news

Ebadot Hossain, Khaled Ahmed and Shoriful Islam are likely to make up Bangladesh’s pace attack in the absence of Taskin while Mehidy and Shakib will take up the spin responsibilities. Nurul Hasan keeps wicket and Zakir will open the batting on debut.

Bangladesh (possible): 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 opens in the absence of Rohit? Shubman Gill has not done much wrong in his fledgling Test career but there’s also Abhimanyu Easwaran coming on the back of knocks of 157 and 141 in the two games against Bangladesh A and also has the experience of playing on Bangladesh tracks having featured in nine Dhaka Premier League games earlier this year. With a batting-friendly pitch expected, India will play five bowlers which means two spinners and two quicks, leaving the fifth spot as a toss-up between a third seamer or spinner, depending on conditions. Jaydev Unadkat won’t be available for selection as he hasn’t reached Chattogram yet because of visa issues.

India (possible): 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

Pitch and conditions

Known for the runs it offers, the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium is expected to turn out another flat surface with dry weather and temperature going up to 27°C over the next five days.

Stats and trivia

  • Shakib is one five-wicket haul away from his 20th in a Test career that started against the same opponent (India) in the same city (Chattogram) but at a different ground – the Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium. The only current players ahead of him on the five-fors list are James Anderson (32), R Ashwin (30) and Nathan Lyon (21)
  • Mushfiqur, Bangladesh’s top run-scorer, has nine Test centuries and is just one behind Tamim Iqbal (10) and Mominul Haque (11) among his team-mates
  • Zakir Hasan was the top scorer in the National Cricket League – Bangladesh’s domestic first-class competition – with a tally of 442 runs and an average of 55.25
  • R Ashwin is eight away from 450 Test wickets
  • Virat Kohli’s last Test century was in November 2019, also against Bangladesh
  • Since the start of 2019, Bangladesh have won only one Test at home and lost six out of the eight they have played

Quotes

“We have to go to bed, simple as that. You can’t be watching football till three in the morning, and play the Test that starts at 9.30am. It is stupid. I’d be disappointed if they did.”

Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo doesn’t come across as a Messi fan as he doesn’t mind missing the Argentina vs Croatia Football World Cup semi-final

“We are playing Test cricket after a long time, it takes a little while to have that mental change as well. Discussions are going on, we’ve spoken about it nicely; lengthy discussions have gone on and that’s happened for a lot of teams as well.”

India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey addresses the challenge of his team having to switch to the Test format after five months

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