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Dhoni out with bad back

cricket Updated: Jan 17, 2010 01:43 IST
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In Twenty20, difference between teams can get narrowed. Even in one-dayers, the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland have knocked out big names like India and Pakistan from the World Cup. But Test cricket is a different ball game. It remains the most authentic way of separating class from mediocrity.

Since reaching the top of the ICC rankings, India will, on Sunday, start a journey to remain there for as long as possible. It begins with the two-Test series against bottom-ranked Bangladesh, at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Sunday.

But even before they start, they suffered a setback. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is out of the first Test due to a lower back spasm and Dinesh Karthik will take his place behind the stumps. Vice-captain Virender Sehwag will now lead.

Dhoni left Saturday’s optional practice session early but, at the media conference on Saturday morning, Sehwag said: “He's having a break. He came, he played football, did fielding practice and keeping practice and now he is in the dressing room taking a break and enjoying himself and getting ready for tomorrow.”

But soon after the team meeting in the evening, manager Arshad Ayub confirmed that Dhoni was out. The India skipper had been ruled out of the Napier Test in March last year with a similar injury.

But even then, for Bangladesh to cause an upset here would mean the formidable Indian batting line-up flounders twice. The wicket looks a batting paradise and, on this track, it could become difficult for even India to run through the Bangladesh batting. So, even factoring in cricket’s unpredictability, the converse can be virtually ruled out.

Indian bowlers can take heart from the fact that a strong sea-breeze blows across the ground all day. It could cause the ball to do a bit, especially if Sreesanth, who is likely to feature ahead of Ishant Sharma, can get his reverse swing going. India could go ahead with two seamers and two spinners. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra looks a likely choice over Pragyan Ojha.

The batting line-up picks itself and everyone would be raring to go. Sehwag holds the record of the fastest triple ton. With two already in his career, he shares a platform with Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara. One more here would give him a new high. Even Lara’s 400 could be under threat, especially against an inexperienced bowling line-up.

The next contest is between Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. The duel for the highest number of Test centuries and maximum runs in Tests is slowly heating up with both inching towards retirement. But with Australia playing Tests more often, the Little Master, who at 43 tons, leads Ponting by four, could be running out of time.

For Bangladesh, even a draw here could be a bigger achievement than what their cricket has witnessed in some time. For that their batsmen have to show character.

Left-handed top order batsman Shahriar Nafees is likely to make a comeback after his stint with the Indian Cricket League.

This was where he had last played a Test, against South Africa in March 2008. But much would depend on Mohammad Ashraful, who has over the years emerged one of their most technically sound batsmen.