Can India dominate yet again?

Bangladesh hosting three prominent Test playing nations — Pakistan, India and South Africa — in the calendar year is in sync with the country’s ambition to make it big in international cricket, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

These are exciting times for Bangladesh cricket, both on and off the field.

The quarterfinal finish following some memorable performances in the World Cup and the whitewash of Pakistan in the one-day series and T20 international at home have projected 2015 as one of the most successful years for Bangladesh, which suffered as a Test team for one-and-a-half decades because of its consistently below par showing against the higher-ranked sides in the world.

In recent times the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has been taking several steps, including the unveiling of a High Performance programme under the guidance of former English Test cricketer-turned-coach Paul Terry and the Australian team’s former strength and conditioning coach Stuart Karppinen. The programme aims at having the best prepared Bangladeshi players in international cricket.

The BCB’s objective is crystal clear and Bangladesh hosting three prominent Test playing nations — Pakistan, India and South Africa — in the calendar year is in sync with the country’s ambition to make it big in international cricket.

India touring Bangladesh for a one-off Test and three one-dayers starting from June 10 may fit well into the scheme of things for the host, but is it so for the touring side?

The top Indian players have been playing non-stop cricket for more than a year. Some may argue that had this tour not been scheduled, the cricketers would have enjoyed a well-deserved break.

On the other hand, India, an ever-reluctant host to the neighbouring country, could have utilised the window to play its maiden home Test series against Bangladesh. This would have provided the selectors an opportunity to test some youngsters and the Indian fans a motivation to fill the stands and see some of the Bangladesh cricket stars in flesh and blood. Not all of them figure in the Indian Premier League.

Prior to the selection of the Indian team, speculation was rife that the selectors might try out some fresh talents for the upcoming series across the border and rest some of the regular faces. However, the Sandip Patil-headed panel sprung a surprise by naming a full strength squad for the short series in the peak of the monsoon season.

The relationship between the Indian and Bangladesh cricket boards has come a full circle with veteran Kolkata-based administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya taking up the reins of the BCCI. In 2000, Bangladesh had received Test status when Dalmiya was head of the International Cricket Council (ICC). It is common knowledge that Dalmiya had played a crucial role in Bangladesh’s elevation as a Test nation.

The BCCI’s gesture may have immensely pleased the cricketing fraternity and passionate followers of the game in one of the youngest Test nations, but practically it will serve little purpose for the betterment of Indian cricket since the players on view are tried and tested.

Nevertheless, this series, especially the Test match, will see Virat Kohli as the regular captain of the National side in the longer version of the game. So far, the Delhi-based batsman has played a stop-gap role in Tests and assuming responsibility as a full-time skipper will expose him to various aspects of the job. In the post-M. S. Dhoni era, this Test should also reward the patiently-waiting Wriddhiman Saha as India’s No. 1 wicketkeeper-batsman.

The other major highlight of the one-off Test at Fatullah is the return of Harbhajan Singh. The seasoned off-spinner, now in his mid-30s, has the desire to serve Indian cricket for a few more years and will have to prove his prowess against the Bangladesh batsmen. The healthy competition between Harbhajan and R. Ashwin is likely to boost the potency of India’s spin attack.

Starting with Bangladesh’s inaugural Test, India has established complete domination over the rival in the seven Tests played in the last 15 years. It has won six, while drawing one (in 2007).

In the one-day series in Mirpur, the Dhoni-led Indian side will seek to continue its supremacy over the Tigers. India might have a 25-3 win-loss record against Bangladesh, but the visiting team would be well aware of the fact that it had somehow managed to win the ODI series despite posting some meagre totals in the same country around the same time, last year.

It will be interesting to see whether Dhoni prefers to give his less-experienced colleagues a platform or goes for the kill by fielding the best available players.

Bangladesh is riding high on the consistent showing of some of its leading players — including run machines Mominul Haque, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah, all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan and effective pacers Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain — and will hope that these players would fire against the visiting side.

Up-and-coming players, such as Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das and Rony Talukdar, will look forward to making an impact in the important series and sealing their berths for the future.

Bangladesh eagerly looks forward to raise the bar and climb higher up the ladder of world cricket. This short skirmish against India may give the much-needed impetus to the small nation in achieving its big dream.