Bangladesh gear up for Whatmore farewell
Whenever they have the opportunity, the Bangladesh team start a training session with a game of football. Bowlers wear fluorescent vests and play against batsmen in a match played over a small area, with a mini football, and goalposts only about two feet in height. The game requires plenty of skill: because of the lack of height of the goalposts, the players need to manoeuvre the ball along the ground, without taking the aerial route.
This is not a new practice, but with this being Dav Whatmore's last Test in charge, one is tempted to draw a cricketing parallel. If Bangladesh's batsmen keep the ball along the ground and make the Indians earn their wickets, Whatmore will happily accept that as a farewell gift. Four years of coaching Bangladesh have brought him both frustration and joy: precocious talent has often flattered to deceive, yet Bangladesh have managed some landmark victories against high-quality opposition.
For one last time, Whatmore urged his team to show some fight and play sensibly. "It is still a serious game of cricket, and we are focused on not repeating some of the mistakes we have been making," he said on the eve of the second Test, the first to be staged at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium at Mirpur.
Bangladesh don't expect to win the match. "We want to do the best we can and see where it takes us," Whatmore said. The previous Test at Chittagong was their first in 13 months, which is a far cry from the amount of Test cricket they managed last season - the match in which they almost defeated Australia was their fifth of that season. Thrown out of practice again, they have found it hard to maintain their intensity over five days.
Bangladesh, boosted by the return of Tushar Imran, the middle-order batsman who had missed the last Test because of fever, haven't finalised their XII, because they might be looking to draft in Tushar who has done well in domestic cricket. They've also called up another medium-pacer, Mohammad Sharif, into the 15.
India, meanwhile, buoyed by Anil Kumble completing a practice session successfully, have made their intentions clear by sticking with a five-bowler strategy for the second Test. The same five batsmen will try to make sure they bat only once, while there will be at least one bowler making his debut. Wasim Jaffer, who bagged a pair at Chittagong, enjoys the confidence of the captain, who made it clear even before the series started that they wouldn't change the opening combination after only one Test, irrespective of whatever happened.
Depending on the state of the pitch on the morning of the Test, India will decide if the fifth bowler will be a spinner or a medium-pacer. One out of Rajesh Pawar, the Baroda left-arm spinner, or Ishant Sharma, the Delhi fast bowler, will get a Test cap. They could both make the cut in case India decide to drop Ramesh Powar, who was less than impressive on his debut Test at Chittagong.
The weather in Mirpur has become more humid than it was when India last visited for the first two one-dayers earlier this month. The pitch will demand hard work from the bowlers - it wears a dark look because of the black clay used here, which makes the surface hard. It is expected to be bouncier than the one at Chittagong, but the lack of grass means bowlers won't be queuing up for their chance to run in and let it fly.
India (from) Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Rajesh Pawar, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma, Ramesh Powar
Bangladesh (from) Javed Omar, Shahriar Nafees, Habibul Bashar, Mohammad Ashraful, Rajin Saleh, Shakib Al Hasan, Tushar Imran, Mehrab Hossain jnr, Khaled Mashud, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Rafique, Shahadat Hossain, Enamul Haque jnr, Syed Rasel, Mohammad Sharif
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine