India look to tame the Tigers

Cricket One-off Test: Kohli's men eye chance to better their record against improving Bangladesh

India look to tame the Tigers

Steaming ahead in full speed and seemingly invincible on home turf, a dominant India face a tricky obstacle in Bangladesh as the two sides clash in a one-off Test match starting here on Thursday.

Having already pummelled New Zealand (3-0) and England (4-0) in the two series gone by at home and unbeaten in their last 18 Test matches overall, the game against Bangladesh at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium should appear nothing more than a formality for Virat Kohli’s men.

With their batsmen in good form, bowlers possessing the ability to scalp 20 wickets and replacements stepping up with exhilarating performances, the Indians are undoubtedly the overwhelming favourites against Bangladesh.

Add the wide gulf in rankings between the two sides — India are No 1 while Bangladesh are No 9, just one rung above Zimbabwe — the contest seems like the proverbial David vs Goliath battle. However, just like how David stunned giant Goliath in a tale that’s a constant feature of most textbooks, underdogs Bangladesh would be eyeing their moment in history in their first-ever trip to India for a Test match.

Rising forces in one-day cricket, Bangladesh have been making some serious statements in the longer version over the last few months. Trying to employ the same brand of fearless cricket that has earned them success in the shorter version, Bangladesh shocked England and created a flutter against New Zealand, albeit in a losing cause.

After being blanked 3-0 in the preceding ODI and T20I series respectively, Bangladesh had New Zealand and the cricketing world in a daze as seasoned Shakib al Hasan (217) and skipper Mushfiqur  Rahim (159) forged a 359-run fifth-wicket partnership to power their side to a mammoth 595 runs in the opening Test. It, however, ended in an anti-climax as they suffered a second innings collapse — 160 all out — to end up on the losing side. They had their moments in the second Test too but their inability to maintain the intensity for longer periods of time saw them lose that game as well.

India won’t be taking things for granted despite having beaten Bangladesh on six out of eight occasions. With Australia set to arrive later this month, they can be forgiven for looking ahead rather than focusing on the current skirmish but judging from the way they've trained over the last three days, it looks like they are up for this game with full intensity. Coach Anil Kumble and skipper Virat Kohli stressed there is no scope for complacency and would be approaching this game as if they are playing against an equal opponent.

Even so, two men who would be licking their lips in anticipation of a good show are off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara. India’s major match-winner in their rise to the summit, Ashwin has bagged a jaw-dropping 18 wickets in the two games he’s played here. The numero uno bowler and all-rounder in the world, Ashwin will be no doubt looking to leave Bangladesh in a spin. Pujara, India’s best batsman after skipper Virat Kohli with 836 runs last year, has plundered 159 and 204 in his two innings at this stadium and the Saurashtra cricketer would be gunning for another big one.

The pitch, like in the previous three games held here, is expected to be a sporting one, aiding batting for the first three days before assisting the spinners on the final two days. By that indication, India may play three spinners and two pacers, a combination that worked brilliantly against England.

On paper, India appear too strong for Bangladesh with the odds stacked heavily in their favour. The Tigers, as they are fondly called, on the other hand will be hoping to make the most of the limited chances they get against the established order.

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