PREVIEW: The Indian Test juggernaut will look to extend their supremacy in the ICC World Test Championship when they take on Bangladesh in the first of two Tests in Indore on Thursday (November 14).
India are sitting atop the championship table with 240 points, while Bangladesh are yet to play a game. The visitors will begin that pursuit with one of the toughest challenges in cricket, given India are nearly unbeatable at home in this format. India are coming off a 3-0 whitewash of South Africa, their 11th consecutive Test series win at home.
The last time India lost a series at home was in 2012, against England. Since then, they have lost only one match, to Australia in Pune 2017. Bangladesh are coming off a defeat in their previous game, to Afghanistan who are ranked lower than them. Bangladesh are also missing a couple of key players in Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.
Yet, India are not taking anything for granted. They have a full strength squad, barring the injured Jasprit Bumrah. Virat Kohli is back to lead the side after a brief break in the T20Is. His deputy Ajinkya Rahane and other Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara come in too, making the batting a strong unit.
The series will be another opportunity for India to test their new opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal. Rohit, who opened for the first time in the series against South Africa, scored three centuries including a double-ton to be named Man of the Series. Agarwal too made two tons, including a double-century.
Wriddhiman Saha is likely to continue over Rishabh Pant as wicket-keeper, while the ever-improving Ravindra Jadeja adds strength to lower order batting.
Interestingly, the pitch at the Holkar International Stadium has a generous spreading of grass on it. Kohli said India could play three pacers in the game, which means Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will have a go. That could mean India will have to make the tough decision of leaving a spinner out. Will it be R Ashwin or Jadeja?
For Bangladesh, the two Test matches will provide an opportunity to test the young players. They stretched India in the T20I series, which they lost 1-2. They have a new skipper in Mominul Haque, who was their standout batsman last year, with 673 runs from 15 innings, including four hundreds.
A huge amount of responsibility would lie on the shoulders of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah too. Rahim made a century the last, and only, time Bangladesh played a Test in India (2017).
Mustafizur Rahman will lead the pace attack, while Taijul Islam and Mehedy Hasan will handle spin duties.
Bangladesh will look to take inspiration from their previous Test in India, when they batted out more than 100 overs in each innings and stretched the game till the fifth day, although resulting in a loss. If they can do that, or more, it will set the series up nicely for the second Test in Kolkata which is the central focus of the series. For that will be the first day-night Test for both teams.
India: Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Jadeja, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant.
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (C), Al-Amin Hossain, Imrul Kayes, Shadman Islam, Saif Hassan, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehedy Hasan, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Taijul Islam, Nayeem Hasam, Mustafizur Rahman, Ebadat Hossain