A (mis)match of records

The triumphant Indian Team.-AP

India was the better side and there were some lessons to be learnt for Bangladesh. Vijay Lokapally reports.

The players were battling fatigue and nausea. The conditions were very demanding. The busiest men on either side were the trainers and the physios, trying their best to keep the players on their feet. It was not the best time to play cricket in Dhaka but then the players, the main actors in this drama, have hardly any say when it comes to the scheduling of matches.

The heat and humidity were major factors that the players had to deal with in the second Test that India won with ease. The match lasted three days and once again showed Bangladesh to be a poor Test team. The self-belief that coach Dav Whatmore was so proud to have inculcated in the team was sorely missing at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.

On a placid pitch that became two-paced on the third day, the home team gave a disappointing display. Its one-day record has improved steadily, but this was the longer version and it was abject surrender by Bangladesh.

The Indians were too good. The first four batsmen scored centuries and set a new benchmark with the feat. It was the first time in the history of the game that the first four batsmen had scored centuries in the same innings of a Test. Openers Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik showed the way and were joined in the act by Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.

"It was pretty tough because the heat and humidity slowed down the body. It was hard on everyone but I would give all the credit to the bowlers. To have bowled in these conditions and finished the match in three days was very creditable I thought. You had to hang in there and it was a real test of your mental and physical strength,'' said Sachin Tendulkar, the `Man of the Series' with a century in each Test.

It was not the best of Tendulkar's centuries. His innings may have looked laborious at times, but he had a task cut out and that was to guide the innings. The Indians wanted to ensure that they would not have to bat a second time because the bowlers had done an excellent job of reading the pitch.

"They knew where to pitch and I thought Zaheer (Khan) bowled well,'' remarked skipper Dravid. Zaheer indeed bowled well. Returning from a combination of bad form and injuries, he was close to losing his place in the team but bowled remarkably to crush Bangladesh's hopes.

"There had been a lot of criticism but then I had not played consistently for long. I was out of the team for nearly one year. I worked hard on my fitness and here it was the case of staying focussed. The conditions were sapping but I knew we could wrap it up in three days,'' said the left-arm seamer, who was adjudged the `Man of the Match' for his incisive bowling.

Sachin Tendulkar with the Man of the Series award.-AP

As captain, Dravid gave credit to all the bowlers. He was particularly happy with the way Ishant Sharma bowled in his first Test. "I thought he was very impressive. We have a good crop of bowlers around,'' said the captain. His views were supported by Zaheer, who welcomed the healthy competition. Bangladesh's total lack of application showed the team in very poor light. The king `pair' that opener Javed Omar bagged had its impact on the course of the contest.

The most important factor in Bangladesh struggling right through the match was the negative mindset of the team management. Bangladesh electing to field meant it had read the pitch wrongly and it never recovered from the opening day advantage that India established by scoring 326 without loss.

Karthik, the most improved player in recent times, grabbed the opportunity that came his way by scoring his first Test century. The elevation to the opener's slot was a welcome boost to Karthik's career and the century established him in the company of Jaffer, who had the dubious distinction of getting a `pair' in the first Test at Chittagong.

The Bangladesh batting lacked the character to take on the Indian bowling. Of course, the blistering show by Mohammad Ashraful in the second innings was sensational but it was too good to last. He perished to an aggressive shot but had salvaged some pride with his daring assault.

Ashraful hit the fastest half-century in Tests in terms of minutes (27), while Anil Kumble became the second fastest bowler after Muttiah Muralitharan to cross the 550-mark. Ashraful's feat broke a record that had stood for 113 years, while the evergreen Kumble did what comes naturally to him, take wickets.

The pressure was on Bangladesh to put up a good fight. Its supporters had come to believe that Bangladesh could do it because of the confidence with which it had managed to avoid the follow-on in the previous Test. But patience deserted the batsmen and poor shot selection led to the team suffering a humiliation, the innings and 239-run verdict giving India its biggest victory in terms of margin.

"I expected the boys to play ruthlessly. It is just the beginning for a team that is a confident lot. I enjoyed my stint as a coach and am proud to have been associated with this talented bunch,'' said Ravi Shastri. His impressions were formed over a period of a month that he spent with the players, and of course his own judgement of having watched them from the vantage position in the commentary box.

India was the better side and there were some lessons to be learnt for Bangladesh. "Patience and more Test cricket is what our team needs. There is plenty of talent but the level of confidence can rise only when they play more and more Test cricket,'' summed up former Bangladesh batsman Athar Ali Khan.