A few positives

Shikhar Dhawan was adjudged the Man of the Match.-AFP

A thick cloud cover and frequent showers became a constant feature throughout the match, raising questions about the decision to schedule a series during the monsoon season. Y. B. Sarangi reports.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day!

This seemed to be the refrain among players, spectators, media personnel and everyone present at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah for the one-off Test involving India and Bangladesh, as all five days of the match were severely curtailed by monsoon rains, forcing the contest to end in a draw.

There was a lot of expectation from this Test as the two teams were playing a five-day game after a gap of five years. From India’s point of view, this was an occasion when Virat Kohli was formally handed the Test captaincy following M. S. Dhoni’s retirement from the longer version of the game and seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh made a comeback to the side after a gap of almost two years.

Both of them came out in flying colours as Kohli, known for his inherent aggression, opted for a six-batsman-five-bowler combination and fielded a rare attack, including three pacers and two off-spinners, on a hard, batting-friendly wicket. He wanted to exploit the hot and humid conditions and take advantage of the reverse swing.

However, the rain gods had other ideas. Virtually, only two days’ play was possible as a thick cloud cover and frequent showers became a constant feature throughout the match, raising questions about the decision to schedule a series during the monsoon season.

Still, the match provided a few positives for the Indian team. The opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan (173) and Murali Vijay (150) complemented each other to put on a 283-run stand — India’s best opening partnership against Bangladesh — and established that they were the best options for the opening slots whether India played at home or abroad.

Dhawan, who was declared the Man of the Match for his dominating century, the third of his career, was back at his best, hammering the Bangladeshi bowlers all over the park. He played his trademark backfoot punch with elan and that spoke a lot about his current form.

Vijay, playing a perfect foil to Dhawan, chose to restrict his natural strokeplay and allow his partner to flourish. Nevertheless, he did not lose the chance on a batting paradise and showcased his copybook style shots to get his sixth Test hundred.

The dependable Ajinkya Rahane again underscored his importance as a team-man as he played a brilliant knock of 98 and forged a century stand with Vijay at good pace before sacrificing his wicket in an attempt to accelerate the scoring rate further.

With a lot of time wasted due to rains, India declared its first innings at 462 for six and tried to press for a win on the last two days. However, the weather did not relent.

In the given conditions, it was a fine performance from the Indian bowlers. The two off-spinners were a class act as they bowled in tandem and set up a rare exhibition of an Indian attack maintaining the intensity throughout an innings.

That’s the brand of cricket captain Kohli plays and expects each member of his team to follow.

Even as he backed the idea of having a reserve day for rain-affected Test matches, Kohli lavished praise on his bowlers for their performance in such a situation. “That’s what we wanted to do as a team and we were able to do that. The credit goes to the bowlers who were willing to do that despite going off the field, coming on again, and the conditions being hot and humid. There were no excuses, there was no cribbing. As a captain that was very pleasing for me to see,” said Kohli.

Kohli admired the skill and competence of the off-spinning duo, Ashwin and Harbhajan, while explaining their utility in the side. “Watching them bowl together as a pair was really exciting. I think both of them enjoyed bowling together as well — if one put pressure, the other took a wicket and vice-versa.

“I would like to have players who can win us games. And both of them have that ability. Especially now that we have a prolonged season in the sub-continent, we need to look at how we can strengthen our team for that. And both of them are good enough to do the same thing when we are away from home as well, it is just about the mindset, I guess.”

The visiting bowlers’ hard work paid off, though partially. India managed to wrap up the Bangladesh first innings for 256 runs and make the host follow on. Though it was a moral victory for India, the team, following the draw, slipped a rung to fourth place in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings.

The transition in leadership from Dhoni to Kohli was smooth as the whole team backed the captain’s vision and belief to go for a win. And with Ravi Shastri, a man of courage and conviction, as the mentor, there is an air of positiveness in the Indian camp.

It was a learning experience for Bangladesh. The team had some talented batsmen such as Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Soumya Sarkar and debutant wicketkeeper-batsman Litton Das, apart from an established all-rounder in Shakib Al Hasan. But the home side’s batsmen did not capitalise on the good starts they got and as a result the team had to follow-on. Bangladesh must be thankful to the weather gods for saving it from a defeat.

The Bangladeshi bowling attack, comprising three spinners, apart from left-arm spinner Shakib, was not up to the mark on the opening day.

But when they returned, they gave a disciplined performance. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim hit the nail on the head when he said that there was a yawning gap between the skill levels of both the teams and it would be better for the Bangladeshi players to learn a few things from their Indian counterparts.