It's reality-check time for Bangladesh. This is the first time they will be playing Tests after their historic series win against a replacement West Indies side last July. Opinions were divided on whether to see that success as a big step forward for Bangladesh cricket, the opposition notwithstanding.
While they couldn't control the murmured asterisks that were being put next to the most glorious moment of their young cricket life, Bangladesh now have it in their control to put up a tough, competitive show against the No. 1 side in the world.
In a harsh sort of way - such is the nature of the beast - Bangladesh will add more credibility to their West Indies success by pushing India in this series. They know if they are rolled over without a contest, time will not be wasted in reminding them of the pedigree of the team they beat in the Caribbean.
Their opponents, who are without their captain MS Dhoni, out due to a back strain, know better than to take them lightly, not least because of the 2007 World Cup debacle which they can never forget. What is less documented, however, is how immediately after that exit India struggled to put Bangladesh out in their last, albeit rain-affected, Chittagong Test. The first Test of the 2007 series started with Wasim Jaffer shouldering arms and getting bowled first ball, and ended with India never being able to create enough distance to win the match. Normal service was resumed in the next Test, but India know that if a No. 1 side takes so long to warm up, it is not allowed to remain at the top for long.
Form guide (last 5 completed matches, most recent first)
Bangladesh WWLLL India WWDDD
Watch out for
Virender Sehwag doesn't have an international century against Bangladesh. In two Tests against them, he has managed 23 runs, and even his ODI average against Bangladesh is lower than his overall average. Some correction of those stats might be in order.
Tamim Iqbal's case is inverse. When playing India in ODIs, his average, his strike-rate, and his adrenalin, all shot up. In the lead-up to his first Test against his favourite opponents, Tamim has been talking about the importance of bringing more patience to his game, of "controlling" his mind. This Test won't be a bad time to start.
The one big change for Bangladesh from the ODIs will the inclusion of Enamul Haque jnr for Abdur Razzak. One of the part-timers should make way for another specialist batsman, Junaid Siddique in all likelihood. Shahadat Hossain, who was in the squad for the tri-series but not used, should take back his Test spot.
Bangladesh: (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Junaid Siddique, 4 Mohammad Ashraful, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Raqibul Hasan, 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 9 Enamul Haque jnr, 10 Shahadat Hossain, 11 Rubel Hossain.
Wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik will replace Dhoni, while Sehwag takes over the reins. The other selection issue will be whether to play two spinners or one, and if they opt for two, then who to pick as the second spinner. Tradition suggests they will go with two spinners, and Amit Mishra won the toss-up between him and Pragyan Ojha for the first Test. Ojha played in India's last Test, and then lost his place in the ODI team to Mishra, who had originally lost that place to Ojha after having only travelled with the squad without getting a game.
The Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, previously the Chittagong Divisional Stadium, and even more previously Bir Shrestha Shahid Ruhul Amin Stadium, has traditionally been good for spinners. This is the same venue where Shakib Al Hasan took 7 for 36 against New Zealand, the best innings figures by a Bangladesh bowler in Tests. Despite the ground's proximity to the sea, there is nothing in the forecast to suggest any loss of play over the next five days.
Stats and trivia
When Bangladesh won the series in the West Indies last year, it was the first time in their 61-match career that they had won back-to-back Tests.
Outside the matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh have managed three draws, and one of them came against India.
Gautam Gambhir scored his first Test century against Bangladesh, and then started his international comeback with an ODI ton against them, his second overall.
"We might possibly go with three quicks and have Shakib [Al Hasan] and Mahmudullah share the spin bowling. The pitch might keep low on days three, four and five and seamers might be handy. But again, nothing is fixed, we might go with three spinners." Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, keeps his cards close.
"In one-day [cricket] they can surprise anybody but not in Test matches. It's an ordinary side. It's difficult for Bangladesh to take 20 Indian wickets. The kind of batting line up we have, I don't think so. Even Sri Lanka can't do that." Clearly Virender Sehwag thinks it's very very difficult for Bangladesh to beat India.