Day one in Indore was a glimpse of the life Bangladesh can expect over the coming two years in the ICC World Test Championship. Opponents will be unlikely to take the foot off the pedal against them, as collecting points will be the major goal in this competition. It only means Bangladesh must now step up their all-round game.
India have proved almost unbeatable at home in recent years, with their strong pace attack complemented by two quality spinners, and it wasn't hugely surprising that their attack Bangladesh out for 150. This was a batting line-up that was missing two of its best batsmen, lacking an allrounder to add some balance, and endowed with a fairly long tail.
But Bangladesh did themselves no favours with their preparation for this series. Their performance on day one should cause them to think long and hard about how they can be better prepared for similar examinations in the future.
After the players' strike was resolved last month, the Shakib Al Hasan saga took much of the energy out of Bangladesh's preparations for this tour. The T20Is came first, so the training camp in Dhaka was more focused towards that format. Half this current Test squad played an extra first-class match before traveling to India on November 8, while the other half were only able to do a limited amount of work on their red-ball game after the Test match against Afghanistan in September. They played only a couple of first-class games in October, one of which was mostly washed out.
This was hardly enough preparation for a team embarking on such a big series, Bangladesh's first in the Test Championship cycle. Shadman Islam and Imrul Kayes came to India with big scores in the National Cricket League (NCL) behind them, but both nicked off after swishing at several good deliveries outside the off stump. Mohammad Mithun and Mahmudullah, who have paid greater attention to their ODI and T20I roles, and aren't known for their stickability in Test cricket, also dithered when answering questions around the off stump, which led them to a loss in power when driving the ball, possibly due to lack of confidence. They didn't seem tactically prepared for a battle against India's fired-up fast bowlers.
Captain Mominul Haque, who was one of the two batsmen who looked composed, has been playing a lot of four-day cricket since August, and is also habituated to playing international cricket after long breaks. But nobody else in the top and middle order could show similar patience. Mominul said it was up to every batsman to be technically and mentally prepared while facing such an attack.
"I think every bowler is bowling at 140-plus [kph], so you have to play fast bowling," he said. "There's no other choice. You have to be ready for fast bowlers. If you don't personally prepare yourself, it is your failure.
"I think we prepared well for the Test series. I played nine four-day matches in the last four or five months. This was good preparation. You can say that we didn't play against these type of bowlers. International cricket is not all about tactics and technique. It has a lot to do about mentality."
Unless Bangladesh crash even more spectacularly in the second innings and the Kolkata Test, they will perhaps get away with struggling against India. But over the next two years, when they face Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies in 12 WTC matches, they cannot afford to show the same approach. They play Pakistan and Sri Lanka away, and Australia, West Indies and New Zealand at home. Each of those series will demand smart training and preparation.
The only time Bangladesh can perhaps experiment a little is against Zimbabwe and Ireland next year, in series outside the WTC, but they cannot afford to lose matches against them like they did against Afghanistan.
The lack of Test-specific preparation may have a lot to do with the general focus in the Bangladesh team being next year's T20 World Cup. Around this time next year, the ODI team will also come under the spotlight as Bangladesh try to ensure automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Their WTC prospects, as a result, don't seem too bright, even though their entire campaign will take place in Asian conditions. Just one day into that campaign, their lack of a clear strategy for the tournament is already apparent.