Another whitewash looms
It's now almost certain that Gagandeep Singh and Shib Sankar Paul have to wait for another day to play Test cricket. Sourav Ganguly made it clear that India, despite a thumping innings-and-140-run win in the first Test at Dhaka, will play a full-strength team in the second Test starting at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong on Thursday. At the end of the first Test Ganguly had hinted that India might experiment a bit but things have obviously changed since then. "It's difficult [to experiment], we hardly play about 10-12 Test matches a year," said Ganguly. "Most of the guys who have been doing well for the team don't want to sit out. At the end of the day, you miss Test matches and you don't get to play too much during the year. On that point of view, it is very difficult to give rest to people if they don't want it."
With two records being chalked up, Irfan Pathan taking his first Test ten-for, and Zaheer Khan racking up a joyous 75, it's easy to see why none of the Indian cricketers want to miss out on a chance to put in a strong showing. For Bangladesh, though, the goals remain the same. Barring the loss of large chunks of time to bad weather, it is impossible to envision them staving off defeat against a strong opposition like India. Dav Whatmore, the Bangladesh coach, when asked for seemingly the 1000th time, whether Bangladesh were worried about the bad results they were notching up, said, "Whether you lose by an innings defeat or a bigger margin, that's not our concern. We have got processes, little targets to achieve and that's what we are going on. Things that we think we can achieve; I'm not interested in the result. You should know that by now."
In 33 Tests so far, Bangladesh have lost 30, and 19 of these by an innings. Whatmore revealed earlier that the team had different targets to other sides, and that these private goals had been written up and tacked onto a board in the dressing-room for the players to constantly remind themselves of the task on hand. The problem for them has been the lack of resistance, and giving the advantage away to the opposition early. But there's still enough to play for to motivate the players, though that is not always the easiest task. "It's not that easy sometimes, because the results haven't been going our way," said Whatmore. "We need to look outside of that and try and achieve other little goals. That's really what we have been focusing on rather than result-orientated goals."
Bangladesh too may have to abandon earlier plans of resting a player. Tapash Baisya has been struggling with a back injury and may have to sit out the Chittagong Test. If Baisya, who underwent a fitness Test, is found to be unfit on Thursday morning, then either Talha Jubair or Mashrafe Mortaza, whom Bangladesh hoped to give a breather as he has just returned to international cricket after a gap of over a year, will have to play. Rajin Saleh, who bagged a pair at Dhaka, and Mushfiqur Rahman, whose military medium hardly troubled India's batsmen, have been left out.
Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain, echoed Whatmore's view that putting up a better fight was the key. "We couldn't put up a fight in the last match," he said. "Doing that will be our aim. Putting up a resistance will be our aim too. We couldn't handle the new ball in the last match and doing that will be the key."
The pitch at the Bangabandhu Stadium, where the first Test was played, offered help to fast bowlers, spinners and batsmen, and won praise from all quarters. The two camps suggested that the pitch for the second Test would be a similar one, though it was impossible to verify this as the heightened security arrangements in Chittagong meant that journalists were not allowed onto the field even the day before the Test. A host of commandos, Kalashnikov sub-machine guns slung casually on their shoulders, ensured that the press were kept well at bay, barricaded into a section of the stands. "The wicket looks good, a bit damp," said Ganguly. "The ball will seam around a bit. Obviously this place is hotter than Dhaka, so it may dry up a bit quicker."
But the way the pitch plays is not especially relevant. India hold all the aces - two world-class spinners, Pathan on fire, Zaheer in search of his 100th Test wicket, and a host of batsmen eager to make tall scores. Bangladesh, celebrating Victory Day on December 16, marking the liberation of their country from the occupation by Pakistani forces, are staring yet another defeat in the face.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Sourav Ganguly (capt), 6 VVS Laxman, 7 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Anil Kumble, 11 Zaheer Khan.
Bangladesh (from) 1 Javed Omar, Nafis Iqbal, 3 Habibul Bashar (capt), 4 Mohammad Ashraful, 5 Khaled Mashud (wk), 6 Manjarul Islam Rana, 7 Mohammad Rafique, 8 Tapash Baisya, 9 Mashafe Mortaza, 10 Talha Jubair, 11 Nazmul Hossain, 12 Aftab Ahmed.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.