India Look To Blank Bangladesh 2-0
Bolstered by the return of charismatic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, India would look to clinch the two-match series 2-0 when they take on Bangladesh in the second cricket Test starting in Mirpur from Sunday.
India had beaten Bangladesh by 113 runs in the first Test in Chittagong without Dhoni and Harbhajan, who have now recovered from back spasm and stiff neck respectively.
Dhoni, who will take charge of the team after Virender Sehwag deputised for him in the first Test, will strengthen the batting department lower down the order.
Harbhajan will be raring to go after missing the first Test as he has had a poor record against Bangladesh. In the two matches he has so far played against them (in 2004), the off-spinner have taken just four wickets.
Injury to senior batsman VVS Laxman, who is a doubtful starter, will not affect the performance of the visitors though they may have to do some re-jigging in the team composition if he is not fit enough.
India will also have to do without paceman Sreesanth who will be returning home because if a hamstring injury. In any case, he would not have made it to the playing XI if India go for two pacers and two spinners considering the flat and slow wicket at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Ishant Sharma, who impressed in Chittagong by generating pace, bounce and movement to take five wickets in the match, is a certainty and so is senior pacer Zaheer Khan, who took five wickets in the first Test.
Zaheer has fond memories of the venue as nearly three years ago he took seven wickets here, including a five-for in the Bangladesh first innings.
If India goes for two spinners, leg spinner Amit Mishra will be the automatic choice over Pragyan Ojha as the former ended as the highest wicket taker in the first Test at Chittagong.
On the batting front, India cannot afford to repeat the poor shots they played to fall in a heap in the first Test in Chittagong.
Except for Yuvraj Singh, all the batsmen are in good nick. The left-hander, who got a stable place in the Test side late in his career, has not been able to do justice to his talent despite being a match-winner in the one-day and Twenty20 formats.
He did reasonably well in the home series against Sri Lanka scoring 158 from three matches at 52.66 and came up with 12 and 25 in the two innings in Chittagong.
Vice-captain Sehwag and senior batsman Rahul Dravid will also looking to be among the runs. For Sehwag, it would be another chance to score a hundred which has eluded him so far in the three matches he has played against Bangladesh.
Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar would want to repeat the performance here in 2007 when they hit centuries to help India post a huge 610 for three declared.
Another centurion in that May 2007 match, Dinesh Karthik will have to complete for a place in the playing XI with Murali Vijay. Karthik scored a duck and a 27 in the two innings in Chittagong
The second Test is also statistically important for Gambhir as he can equal Don Bradman's record of scoring six tons on six consecutive Tests though the diminutive Indian opener has said he has no targets as they only put pressure on him.
For Bangladesh, there are no injury worries but their key batsmen have failed to perform in the first Test especially after their bowlers put India on the mat by bundling them out for 243.
Only Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmadullah Riad have done well with the bat while key batsmen Mohammad Ashraful and Shahriar Nafees flopped in Chittagong. Coach Jamie Siddons has already expressed dissatisfaction at the continued failure of Ashraful.
Their bowlers though made a contest out of the first match by their performance and they would be looking to continue it here. Captain Shakib Al Hasan and pacer Shahadat Hossain have done well in Chittagong with seven and six wickets respectively. PTI