Indians target clean sweep

Indians target clean sweep

Cricket: Second Test: Dhoni, Harbhajan back in the mix; Laxman, Sreesanth ruled out

Indians target clean sweep

Back in business: Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni warms up with a game of football on the eve of the second Test against Bangladesh. AFP

Virender Sehwag has always been the master of unforeseen with bat in his hand or in a press conference room, expressing himself without any inhibition. Still, there was a bit of surprise when he termed Bangladesh an ‘ordinary’ side incapable of taking 20 Indian wickets, a remark that has not entirely faded away even a day prior to the second Test between India and Bangladesh, beginning at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium here on Sunday.

But astonishment was in store during the first day in Chittagong when Bangladesh bowled India out for 243, raising visions of a creditable draw or even a massive upset. But once the home side replied with 242 in their first innings, proceedings fell back to the clutches of predictable with India eventually winning by 113 runs.

Even a brilliant counter-attacking hundred from Mushfiqur Rahim came too late to be of anything more than a minor block in India’s way. It could easily be said that the difference between the two sides then was Sachin Tendulkar’s 44th Test hundred, saving the visitors from total disaster.

But between Tendulkar’s century in the first innings and Gautam Gambhir’s ton in the second essay, there were enough points for India to ponder. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh missed out on big scores and they will be eager to set things right in the second Test.

It is important that these two batsmen find their feet at the earliest as India will need loads of runs from them in the two-Test series against South Africa. A finger injury suffered during the first Test has reduced VVS Laxman to a non-starter on the morrow, so it is imperative for Yuvraj to bolster the middle-order with a good innings
A good outing here will keep his confidence going ahead of the South Africa series as well. India have the option of fielding either Murali Vijay or Dinesh Kaarthick instead of Laxman. Kaarthick did not exactly impress in the chances he got to play on this tour, but the think-tank might still go with the more experienced Tamil Nadu batsman. But Vijay has also been part of the squad for a while now without really getting a chance to prove his skills, so the team management might be tempted to opt for him even though he is not a specialist middle-order batsman.

However, the worries are not limited to the batting department as the bowlers too did not hit top gear in Chittagong though they managed to skittle Bangladesh with ease. But the slapdash approach of the home side batsmen too had played a part in that. It may be argued that bowling at full throttle is not necessary against the inexperienced line-up of Bangladesh, but the world number one side is not expected to dish out a lackadaisical performance.

The below-par outing of S Sreesanth was a huge letdown and the hamstring injury he suffered then has ruled him out of the second Test. The Kerala pace bowler returned to India on Saturday morning and he will report at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore for rehabilitation.

The good news is the return of Harbhajan Singh as India missed the incisiveness of the off-spinner, especially on the fifth day. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra could not raise his performance above the ordinary in the first Test, and his performance will be keenly watched over the next few days.

On the other side of the camp, Bangladesh will be eager to see whether Mohammad Ashraful can make a difference to the proceedings.

Teams (from):
India: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M Vijay, Dinesh Kaarthick, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Sudeep Tyagi.

Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (capt), Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Raqibul Hasan, Mahmudullah Riyadh, Shahriar Nafees, Shahadat Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Enamul Haque Jr, Mahbubul Alam, Shafiul Islam, Naeem Islam.
Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Marais Erasmus (South Africa). Third umpire: Enamul Hoque Moni. Match referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe).
Hours of play (IST): 0900-1100 hours, 1140-1340 hours and 1400-1600 hours.