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India vs Bangladesh | With India's Pacers on the Rampage, Bangladesh Need Rahim at No. 4

What can Bangladesh do differently? For one, they can try and convince Mushfiqur Rahim to bat at No. 4.

Karthik Lakshmanan |November 17, 2019, 5:11 PM IST
India vs Bangladesh | With India's Pacers on the Rampage, Bangladesh Need Rahim at No. 4

Faf du Plessis would have loved to have had Mominul Haque in his side. The South Africa captain tried taking a 'proxy' in Temba Bavuma for the toss in the Ranchi Test against India recently, with no change in luck. South Africa were itching to win the toss and bat first, but Bavuma couldn't help.

Mominul managed that, in his first game as captain. Leading a side in a Test against India in India is the toughest way to start a captaincy career, and Mominul managed to take the correct first step by winning the toss in Indore.

But winning the toss is only half work done, as Mominul and Bangladesh found out over just three days. Ironically, the decision to bat first was not so straightforward; the wicket was such that Virat Kohli said he was going to field first anyway. At the end of the first day, after India bowled Bangladesh out for 150 in the first innings, R Ashwin called Bangladesh's decision to bat a 'brave' one.

The moisture on the surface allowed India to unleash all three pacers in Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Teams better at dealing with pace than Bangladesh have struggled against India's fast bowlers in recent times, and this is without Jasprit Bumrah. Ask South Africa. Faf du Plessis's team lost nearly half their wickets (26 off 60) to pace in their recent series in India.

Thus it was no surprise that the trio would inflict severe damage against Bangladesh too. The three ended picking up 14 off the 20 wickets to fall in Indore. Their consistency has made India an even tougher place to play in, for they are not just reliant on spin to do bulk of the work anymore.

That is an incredible achievement in itself, and nothing says that more than how all the talk around Tests in India have shifted from Ashwin-Jadeja to Ishant-Shami-Umesh.

In Indore, India had 80.3 overs of pace, while only 47.2 overs of spin. It was only the second time that Jadeja went wicketless in a home Test. Bangladesh's batsmen even seemed happier to play spin; even Mehedy Hasan looked assured in his footwork against Ashwin in the second innings.

Neither Ashwin nor Jadeja have bowled 20 overs in the last four innings. The spin duo that has terrorised oppositions in these conditions is now happy to play second fiddle!

Not surprisingly, Bangladesh had no answers to the relentless pace attack. They had technical deficiencies and were also impatient, often showing indiscipline outside off.

What can Bangladesh do differently? For one, they can try and convince Mushfiqur Rahim to bat at No. 4. Rahim is their most experienced batsman and has to walk out in the position where teams generally have their best. At No. 5, Rahim is often doing repair work rather than focusing on building an innings.

Rahim walked in at 31 for 3 and 37 for 3 in the two innings in Indore, and scored 43 and 64 respectively. These aren't great knocks, but in the context of how Bangladesh fared it's still a lot. Sure he was lucky in both innings with India missing chances, but he was easily the most assured batsman in the side.

It's a tricky call for Bangladesh as Rahim has better numbers at No. 5. He averages close to 50 from 13 matches in that position and even made his highest Test score of 219 against Zimbabwe. Rahim has played 8 matches at No. 4, making only 365 runs at an average around 26.

Rahim is also more successful at No. 6, where he averages 35. He batted at No. 6 for his century against India in Hyderabad, 2017. However, those were times when Bangladesh had Shakib Al Hasan. Without him, they need Rahim to show the way from the top order.

"We should have a chat and make a decision. To be honest we haven't taken any decision in this regard," Mominul said after the Indore loss. "If the team management feels it, I think it will be a positive step, if we can promote him up in the order."

Irrespective of batting positions, though, Bangladesh have a stiff challenge in the next game for it will be played with the pink ball. Day-night Tests are known to help seam bowling and India's pacers will be licking their lips in anticipation. It's danger time for Bangladesh.

In fact, it's danger time for most teams playing against India for they will only get stronger when Bumrah returns. India too are clearly waiting for that sooner than later.

"Right now, Jasprit is not a part of the attack. So, when he comes back it will be a one heck of an attack to counter. It's a dream bowling combination for any skipper," Kohli said after the game.

"You have five fast bowlers (along with Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar) who are ready to play for the country. And over a period of time if you can manage the workloads well, we can ensure that each one is nice and fresh for every game that we play," bowling coach Bharat Arun said during the course of the game.

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