Confident India look to consolidate

Visitors aim to preserve No 1 tag with a win in the two-match series beginning today

Confident India look to consolidate

Sachin Tendulkar during a training session on the eve of the first Test against Bangladesh on Sunday. AFPEven a glance at the Indian top order is enough to realise the gulf between the two sides, facing each other in the first of the two-Test series beginning here on Sunday. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman – it’s a line-up that can put the fear of God in any bowling attack.

Recently, the visiting Sri Lankans felt the might of the Indian batting while suffering a 0-2 drubbing in the Test series. The islanders had the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis in their ranks, but still they failed to check the free-flowing Indians.

Bangladesh have at their disposal Shahadat Hossain, Rubel Hossain and Enamul Haq jr, honest bowlers at their best. Dismissing this Indian line-up twice will be a huge challenge for these youngsters. Their skipper Shakib al Hassan is the only player who features in the top rungs of the ICC Test ratings, but the left-arm spinner alone can’t be a major threat to the Indians. That they will walk on to the middle as the number one Test side for the first time in their long history will add to India’s confidence.

The process, perhaps, started under the dynamic leadership of Sourav Ganguly and was carried on admirably by Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble in the later years.

The rise of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to the helm added a whole new dimension to the Indian team, and the journey reached its desired destination in December 2009. The entire progression has taken nearly a decade, now the time has come to move to the next level and sustain the top spot for a long time.

It is a tough task but India will perforce have to make a strong beginning, befitting the numero uno side, for the year 2010. Ruthlessness is the stone upon which great teams in the past have been built, like Clive Lloyd’s West Indians in the 80s and Steve Waugh’s Australians at the turn of this millennium. Despite the gap in the rankings, India cannot take their opponents lightly and the visitors will have to display the stone-mindedness of a champion side as there is no place for compassion for the younger cousins.

A strong show here will help them to further widen the gap between themselves and their immediate rivals, South Africa. Such a performance will also be a stern message about India’s intentions to hold on to the top slot to other contenders like Australia and Sri Lanka.

The Tests also offer Indian bowlers a chance to get into their groove ahead of a far stiffer series against South Africa, starting on February 6. Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and his partner S Sreesanth – the Kerala pacer will share the new ball with Zaheer in all likelihood – have been wayward on many occasions in the just-concluded tri-series here.

It will be a good chance for the duo to fine-tune a few areas while producing a power-packed performance and the arrival of bowling coach Eric Simmons will be a bonus for them. The former South African coach will join the team in official capacity on the morrow.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, likely to get a look in ahead of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, too will be eager to make his mark in the Test arena after missing the Kanpur and Mumbai matches against Lanka.

It’s a chance to move on for India and Bangladesh will be hoping to cut down the distance a bit.

The teams: India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Vijay, Dinesh Kaarthick, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Sudeep Tyagi.

Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Mushfiqur Rahim (vice-captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Raqibul Hasan, Mahmudullah, Shahriar Nafees, Shahadat Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Enamul Haque Jr, Mahbubul Alam, Shafiul Islam.

Umpires: Billy Bowden, Marais Erasmus. Third Umpire: Enamul Hoque Moni; Match referee: Andy Pycroft.

Match timing: 9.00 am (IST) onwards

Dhoni ruled out , Sehwag to lead

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been ruled out of the opening Test against Bangladesh, starting here on Sunday, with a back-spasm, reports DHNS from Dhaka.

“Dhoni will not play the first Test due to a back-spa-sm that he suffered today during the practice session. Virender Sehwag will lead in place of Dhoni while Dinesh Kaarthick will replace him in the side,” team manager Arshad Ayub said on Saturday. "Physio Nitin Patel is attending to him.” 

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