Daal kachori with ketchup for Rs 40, three theplas with pickle for Rs 60, free drinking water, free wifi and 10 Bangladesh wickets. At the Holkar Stadium, on Day 1 of the India-Bangladesh Test, Indore couldn’t have asked for more.
Bangladesh 150 all out, India 86/1 — was expected but still an exception.
While enjoying affordable but sumptuous meals and posting stadium selfies on WhatsApp groups without network issues, close to 13,000 fans got to watch Virat Kohli’s redoubtable winning machine from up close as they looked all set to crush another visiting team.
The Indians put up the kind of show that gives teams new laudatory prefixes. In days to come, ruthless and relentless can possibly be the adjectives of choice for those mentioning India in cricket conversations. In the early part of the last decade, the Australian Test side used to infuse a mix of fear and awe among opponents. At least at home, an invincible halo seems to be forming around India.
The World No.1 Test team and the overwhelming favourites to win the series against this struggling and depleted Bangladesh side, found a way to enhance their aura even on a day that was far from perfect. As the happy bunch of Indians walked towards the dressing room after the quick kill, one could see a new narrative growing around Kohli’s men — they can trample you even when the rub of the green goes against them. They have conquered the uncontrollables.
This Indian team no longer conspires with curators. Pitch manipulation now seems so 2017s. In 2019, even losing the toss doesn’t seem to matter; neither do dropped catches and the early loss of an opener. On a day when four regulation catches went down and Rohit Sharma was out cheaply, there was talk about the magical spell of India’s pacers and the bite that Ravichandran Ashwin got from a pitch that had pace and carry.
The fall of Bangladesh’s wickets was a sort of synopsis package that gave a glimpse of what has been best about the Indian bowling unit over the last few years. There was the brutality of the two skiddy quicks who operate in the high 140s — Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. And there was the subtle subterfuge and delightful deceit of the old hands — Ishant Sharma and Ravichandra Ashwin. Here’s looking at the four wickets that show the diversity of the Indian bowling and how entertaining they look as a unit.
The most sensational dismissal of the day, and significant in terms of the balance of the game, was that of Mushfiqur Rahim — Bangladesh’s top scorer at 43, bowled by Shami. After a series of away-going balls, Shami bowled his special in-cutter, the one that comes in like a bus at breakneck speed and takes a sudden sharp turn.
Shami’s seam position brings back memories of S Sreesanth. There are a few minute differences though. Sreesath’s seam position had a slight tilt. Shami keeps the seam upright for his deadly nip-backer. He also gets greater deviation, as compared to Sreesanth, and this was what foxed Mushfiqur. The ball moved in unexpectedly to hit the top of off. The stumps didn’t go flying but what made the wicket spectacular was the ball, after hitting the top of off-stump, going over the wicketkeeper’s head and clearing the boundary at first bounce. Was this Thomson, were we at Perth?
Ishant’s wicket of left-handed opener Shadman Islam was for the connoisseurs, who turn up at the stadium with binoculars and switch on the television an hour before the toss to listen to pundits. This wicket had an extended plot line where Sharma worked on drawing out the batsman, giving him a false sense of confidence.
Like he has done regularly of late, Sharma switched to round the wicket against the two left-handed openers from his first over. After feeding the two with length balls outside off stump, he changed the line slightly and bowled close to the batsman. Shadman’s eyes lit up. Here was a ball that could get him runs.
With most fielders bunched behind the stumps, a poke to cover would take him to the non-striker’s end, a safe haven given the brutal consistency of the Indian pacers. But it was a con-ball – just that bit shorter than the batsman expected and deviating away. That’s a trick Ishant has mastered while playing county cricket in England. Shadman edged the ball to the wicketkeeper and walked back defeated and dejected.
Ashwin’s wicket of Mominul Haque was probably the most difficult of the day. The Bangladesh captain might not be his team’s top-scorer but easily looked the most organised batsmen of the team. He had a very relaxed and easy stance, played with soft hands and knew where his off stump was. He had a charming way of leaving Ashwin’s balls. Like a hand-fan, he would unfurl his bat from off to leg when he saw the ball wasn’t on the stumps. He had style, and looked like a batsman with refined grooming.
But after facing 138 balls, Ashwin, finally, forced him to play a false stroke. He got him with an undercutter, the ball that straightens and skids. When Mominul got one of these, he played it like a regular off-spinner, thinking that it would go away. It didn’t and the Bangladesh captain had to suffer the embarrassment of leaving a ball headed to the stumps.
The final wicket of the Bangladesh innings was also a visual delight. In the past, there have been those who have labelled Umesh Yadav as a tearaway pace who didn’t understand the subtleties of pace bowling. Yadav 2.0, while being consistently quick, also uses his wrist to fox the batsman.
There was a unique aspect to his dismissal of Ebadot Hossain. Generally, batsmen get squared up when the ball moves away from good length and a decent height. Here was a batsman squaring up to a full ball that hardly took off. The last-minute tweak by Yadav’s supple wrist made the ball move away and hit the stumps. As the pacer finished his muted celebration, Kohli gave him a thumbs-up. The job was done without much fuss.
India’s innings would also start in style with Mayank Agarwal hitting the first ball for four. Later, Cheteshwar Pujara would hit three in one over. At stumps both were nearing their 50s and in the dressing room waits world cricket’s big draw, Virat Kohli.
On Day 2, many more Indoris will flock Holkar Stadium, to drain the data and watch the Indian batsmen, with theplas and some lip-smacking pickle.