India Need Win To Avert Threat To No 1 Spot
Aware that the number one spot in the ICC Test rankings can change hands after every series, top ranked India would settle for nothing more than a victory when they take on lowly Bangladesh in the first of the two-match Test series starting in Chittagong on Sunday.
With India playing not many Tests this year and other teams -- including South Africa, Australia and England -- closely behind them, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men will have to get maximum result from the Bangladesh series.
India is expected to maintain their world number one status if they win the series against Bangladesh 2-0 as South Africa, engaged in a Test series against England at home, is left with no chance of toppling the Dhoni-led side.
Even though some of the Indian players, who were part of the just concluded tri-series squad, would be a bit low in morale after losing the final to Sri Lanka, they will have to get over the disappointment and concentrate at the job at hand.
Notwithstanding the unimpressive start in 50-over format, the Indians would be aiming to begin with a bang in Test cricket.
The complexion of the team has also changed after six players, including stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, joining the touring squad.
A full strength India are the overwhelming favourites over Bangladesh who are ranked ninth in the world.
History also favour India as Bangladesh had never won a Test against their western neighbours out of the five they have played between themselves, the last one at the same venue being a drawn affair with rain severely affecting the game.
The Indians have won by an innings in three matches while the fourth one was won by nine wickets.
For some big names in Indian cricket, it would be a perfect platform to get into the Test mode ahead of the big Test series against South Africa at home next month.
For dashing Virender Sehwag, who has scored just 23 runs in the two innings against Bangladesh, it is a great opportunity to come up with a big knock and continue his good form after his 293 against Sri Lanka last month.
Sehwag can easily demoralise the inexperience Bangladesh bowlers with his early assault but he will have to play cautiously in the first hour if India bats first as there will be some moisture at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Cricket Stadium here.
Sehwag's opening partner Gautam Gambhir would want to begin the year in Test cricket with a good performance after a phenomenal 2009 while Tendulkar, who scored a century in the drawn match at this venue in May 2007, is just 30 runs away from achieveing another milestone of 13,000 runs.
Laxman is another batsman who has a poor record against Bangladesh having scored just 41 runs in two innings in his first tour in 2007.
But the stylish right-hander would be eyeing to become only the fifth Indian Test cricketer to complete 7000 runs as he is just 83 runs short of that mark.
Zaheer Khan, who is the third player along with Tendulkar and Dravid to have played all the five Tests against Bangladesh, would also want to make amends for his poor record against the home team having taken just 10 wickets against them.
While the top six batsman of the formidable batting line-up -- Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman -- and wicketkeeper and captain Dhoni automatically select themselves in the playing XI, the bowling department will be spearheaded by Zaheer and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
The toss up for the second spinner's position would be between Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha, while S Sreesanth is likely to partner Zaheer in the new ball department as he enjoys an edge over Ishant Sharma and Sudeep Tyagi.
The Kerala pacer had done comparatively well in the Test series against Sri Lanka last month although he bled runs in the just-concluded tri-series.
But it is India's bowling department which could be a matter of concern for Dhoni, especially after their inconsistent showing in the tri-series and Zaheer and Co. will definitely be eager for an improved performance in the Test series. PTI