India set for five-bowler strategy
Virat Kohli has said there is "every possibility" of India fielding five specialist bowlers for the Fatullah Test
has said there is "every possibility" of India fielding five specialist bowlers for the Fatullah Test. The pitch on the eve of the game appeared batsman-friendly and he wanted to have enough options to bowl the opposition out twice.
"I certainly believe that you need to take 20 wickets to win a Test match. Out of your batting unit, you need 2-3 people to click to get a score of 500. So I certainly believe in giving our team a chance to pick up 20 wickets. I am a big fan of the 6-5 combination."
Traditionally India have preferred keeping an extra batsman in stock. However, that strategy hasn't been the most conducive to creating inroads and capitalising on them. Since January 2014, they have picked up 20 wickets only twice
- at Lord's and in Auckland. Meanwhile, first-class teams have made 500-plus scores 10 times in Fatullah, and half of those came in 2015. Cover for the bowlers seems a logical ploy.
"It looks like a pretty nice and hard wicket with no grass on it," Kohli said. "Waiting for bowlers and bowling coach to have a look at the wicket. We will have to figure out how much the wicket will break down, if we need the third spinner or third seamer throughout the game. You can expect a high-scoring game."
Kohli, on captaincy debut, had taken a punt and played legspinner Karn Sharma ahead of the more established R Ashwin. This time he also has Harbhajan Singh to factor into a bowling combination. Not to mention the four pacers in Ishant Sharma, Bhuneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. "We have to discuss it, and we will take a call on it by the evening," Kohli said. "We have to consider which bowler will have impact on days three, four and five."
There has been a hubbub over India managing to train only for a day at the venue of the Test. The rest of their preparation took place in Mirpur instead. Though they haven't played five-day cricket in Bangladesh since 2010, Kohli felt his team had enough to go on.
"Wickets in Bangladesh are similar everywhere. There's no change of soil. Most of the guys have played here last year," he said, referring to the Asia Cup when India played two matches in Fatullah. "We will pretty much know the wicket will play. You don't really need to practice again and again in places where you have played a lot of cricket. Bangladesh is a place where we have played a lot of cricket. It is not going to make that much of a difference in terms of preparations."
India had adopted a similar routine on a tour to New Zealand in 2008-09. They got ready for the Napier Test in Auckland
and required two monumental batting performances to save the match and win the series. A drawn result might not be as kind this time.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo