Virat Kohli’s proactive and aggressive style of leadership will be tested when India take on sprightly underdogs Bangladesh in the one-off cricket Test starting here tomorrow.
Kohli was appointed with full-time Test captaincy after Mahendra Singh Dhoni quit in the middle of the Australia series. The Bangladesh Test match will be, in essence, the start of a life without Dhoni for the team, which comprises cricketers of an average age of 26.
There will also be a sense of deja vu when Kohli walks out alongside his Bangladeshi counterpart Mushfiqur Rahim at the Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium tomorrow.
One of India’s most successful captain Sourav Ganguly also started as a full-time captain against Bangladesh some 15 years back in a one-off Test match that was played at Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka.
Only difference is, this is Kohli’s third Test as the skipper while that match marked Ganguly’s captaincy debut. For Kohli, as he starts a new chapter in his so far glittering career, it will also be a test of his tactical acumen as he would need to decide on whether India would go with six batsmen and four bowlers with a specialist wicketkeeper or with an additional bowler to ensure that taking 20 wickets is not a problem. On paper, it’s another David versus Goliath battle with India having won six out of the seven Test matches between the two countries. Bangladesh drew just one in Chittagong in 2007 with the help of rain.
But Bangladesh have been on the rise after a lion-hearted show in the World Cup, where they disposed off England to make it to the last-eight stage. The World Cup was followed by handing Pakistan a shocking 3-0 ODI series defeat and drawing a Test match, which has not only raised the profile of the team but also earned them a bit more respect from the opposition teams than what they had been used to getting earlier. Also the ‘firm belief’ of their supporters that a controversial ‘No-Ball’ in that fateful World Cup quarter-final match against India robbed them off a fair chance, will also add spice to the contest.
Kohli would not like to take the next door neighbours to be the proverbial ‘banana peel’ that minnows often turn out to be in such mismatched contests. The task will be cut out for the Bangladeshi bowlers, led by their fastest pacer Rubel Hossain and wily all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan, as they face the challenge to stop a formidable batting line-up, which is capable of posting a monumental score in helpful conditions. Kohli, whose last Test series against the mighty Australians earned him a whopping 692 runs with four centuries, would like to cash in on this opportunity to get another hefty score against his name. KL Rahul’s loss could well be Shikhar Dhawan’s gain as the left-hander would be eager to get his place back in the playing XI after he was dropped during Sydney Test due to a string of poor scores before that.
Since the Test series in Australia, Dhawan had an impressive World Cup followed by a decent IPL and he would like to carry on with his rich vein of form. Rahul, who scored a century in Sydney, is out as he is recovering from dengue and this gives Dhawan an opportunity to reclaim his place in the side. With no potent swing bowler like a James Anderson or Stuart Broad in opposition ranks, neither a speed merchant like Mitchell Johnson or Mitchell Starc, Dhawan might find it easy to negotiate the Bangladeshi bowlers on a track which is not expected to produce any lateral movement. Murali Vijay, who has emerged as the automatic first-choice opener after a fine last season in Test matches in England and Australia, will like this opportunity to add a few more runs in his ever-growing kitty. Ajinkya Rahane, India’s most consistent Test player over the year, would like to spike up his Test average by a few points after having done all the hard work getting those runs in adverse conditions across the cricketing globe in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia.
If India go in with six specialist batsmen, then both Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma might fit into the scheme of things but one can’t rule out an aggressive Kohli breaking out from the Dhoni template of playing four bowlers.
Pujara’s four-match county stint with Yorkshire might not have reaped rich dividends in terms of runs but would have certainly helped him sort out his technical glitches as he is back on the familiar featherbeds that he gets to play in domestic matches.
But Rohit on a one-on-one comparison would stand a better chance not only because he is a much superior player but also because of the confidence he has gained during World Cup and subsequently leading Mumbai Indians from a near hopeless situation to IPL title triumph.
For Wriddhiman Saha, it will be a golden opportunity to make the Test wicketkeeper spot his own after being Dhoni’s understudy for nearly five years. Inarguably, India’s best glovesman, Wriddhiman will like to score a few runs so that there is no competition as to who will don the big gloves in the longer version.
In the bowling department, all eyes will be on comeback man Harbhajan Singh, back after being in the wilderness for more than two years. Along with Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan might prove to be a handful for the opposition team that will have as many as five to six left-handers in their ranks.
Ishant Sharma is a certainty as far as the fast bowling unit is concerned. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s all-round ability make him a handy player, Kohli’s penchant for speed makes both Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron more valuable to the team in bigger context.
For Bangladesh, Rubel Hossain’s comeback is a positive news but Sahadat Hossain’s knee surgery is certainly not a good for the team. Worse, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim might just play as a specialist batsman, which effectively means opening the door for rookie keeper-batsman Litton Das. While the bulk of burden will be on senior trio of Tamim Iqbal, Rahim and Shakib, it will be an arduous job for the home team to stop India from achieving the inevitable.
Teams for the series:
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Karn Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Abul Hasan, Imrul Kayes, Jubair Hossain, Litton Das, Mohammad Shahid, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan, Shuvagata Hom, Soumya Sarkar, Taijul Islam, Mahmudullah.