Chattogram, Dec 13 (PTI): KL Rahul’s tactical acumen will be tested along with his batting prowess when a depleted Indian team clashes with a tricky Bangladesh in the high-stakes two-match series, the result of which will have an impact on India’s chances for the World Test Championship final qualification.
India are currently fourth in the WTC table behind Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The only way of qualifying for the final in June is to straightaway win both the Tests against Bangladesh and then all four at home against Pat Cummins’ Australia to eliminate any ifs and buts.
The journey starts at the Zahoor Ahmed Stadium, which has traditionally favoured the batters but also offers some turn towards the business end of the match.
The visitors will start as overwhelming favourites in Test format, in which the Bangladesh is yet to beat India but the absence of Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja could hurt the side.
Jadeja’s absence on these kind of tracks always puts Indian team on the back-foot especially when the opposition team is batting in the third innings or fourth innings.
Jadeja-Ashwin duo, at least against lesser Test nations on sub-continental tracks could be lethal but Axar Patel has done his hard yards over the past two seasons as the second choice left-arm spinner.
As many as 10 Indian players, if all are fit, select themselves in the playing XI and the most important call that the two Rahuls — skipper KL and head coach Dravid — need to make is about the fifth specialist bowler — a third pacer or a third spinner.
Whether India will field a third choice specialist spinner in wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav or slow left-arm orthodox Saurabh Kumar is there to be seen.
Saurabh, who has been a star performer for India A team in the recently concluded two-Test series against Bangladesh A with 15 wickets, would feel that he has made his case for a Test Cap in at least one of the two games.
In the past one year, Rahul hasn’t been exactly exceptional in terms of cricketing smarts as far as captaincy is concerned and this series where he is likely to get two games will be an acid test as far as his long-term leadership ambition is concerned.
On Monday, during the trophy unveiling ceremony with his counterpart Shakib al Hasan, Rahul told the mediapersons that his team “plans to play aggressive cricket” as they know what exactly needs to be done in order to reach the WTC finals for the second consecutive time.
But Rahul, whose performances in white-ball formats has been a bit underwhelming to say the least, will have to walk the talk in terms of showing the required intent and aggression in batting department.
He will have young Shubman Gill for company with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer manning the middle-order.
Rishabh Pant will be back in what could safely be termed as his favourite format where his uncluttered batting has been a delightful spectacle for the Indian fans.
In the bowling department, Umesh Yadav, a master at his craft on barren sub-continental tracks will have Mohammed Siraj, Ashwin and Axar Patel for company.
In case a third pacer is selected instead of an additional spinner, the choice will be between two bowlers of one-Test experience — domestic doyen Jaydev Unadkat and the skiddy Navdeep Saini, who is more remembered for being at the other end when Pant created history at the Gabba.
As far as Bangladesh team is concerned, it will be keen to change its dismal winless record against India over the past 22 years.
In the traditional format, Bangladesh has never had the bowling resources to trouble teams regularly even when they have played at home. Pacers Taskin Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain, Shoriful Islam along with spinners Shakib and Taijul Islam would love to alter the script.
But they do have a steady batting line-up for home conditions with skipper Shakib having 4000 plus runs under his belt. Add Mushfiqur Rahim’s tally of 5000 plus runs and another former skipper Mominul Haque’s 3500 plus aggregate, the batting does have a solid look.
India: KL Rahul (captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammed Siraj, Saurabh Kumar, Kona Bharat, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhimanyu Easwaran.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Litton Das (wk), Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mominul Haque, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Anamul Haque Bijoy, Khaled Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain, Shoriful Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Taijul Islam, Najmul Hossain Shanta, Rejaul Rahaman Raja, Zakir Hasan (wk), Nurul Hasan (wk), Yasir Ali.
Match starts: 9:00 am IST.