Even against a modest bowling attack on a flat pitch, the more fancied team can feel anxiety. But openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay did what was required, giving India a start that can help force a win in this one-off Test. In the process, they forged their second double century stand, only the second Indian pair, after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, to achieve the feat.
The proceedings were rather tame, but India won’t complain. Scoring 239 without losing a wicket on the first day is considered a great start. And India took just 56 overs — stoppage for rain robbed 34 overs — to score that, making it a super effort after Kohli elected to bat.
This doesn’t solve India’s overseas opening problems but at least the pair showed it is a safe bet in Asia. Individually too, it was important for Dhawan and Vijay to score heavily. Dhawan had a mediocre IPL after he was dropped for the last Test against Australia in Sydney, with KL Rahul replacing him. Vijay, on the other hand, has been India’s best opener in the last two years but has still missed out on occasions. He is still short of a century but doesn’t look like he will miss out on this one.
The intent was pretty evident from the concentration Vijay showed in the first session even as Dhawan showed he couldn’t care less about any Bangladesh plans. The first 30 balls Vijay faced yielded just five runs, but the patience, in the face of some ordinary bowling, ensured he didn’t miss out on opportunities later. However, there were a few shots Vijay played irrespective of the situation, like the cut behind point for boundaries.
Dhawan played in one-day mode, pulling and driving with nonchalance. By the time the skies opened up, Dhawan was on 74 off 71 balls and Vijay on 33 off 70. India were well set to score big.
R Ashwin praised the contrasting routes taken by the openers. “I think that’s pretty much the way our openers bat. Shikhar usually plays his game and Vijay settles into his. That’s pretty much what happened today, there was no conscious effort in terms of saying ‘we have to do this’.”
“But there is a good sense of everyone trying to express themselves in the team and we are looking to play with a lot of freedom. Hopefully that is being expressed out in the field,” he said. It has got Dhawan a well-deserved 150 while Vijay is 11 short of his sixth Test century. And if they continue expressing themselves like this, India might get enough time to dismiss Bangladesh twice despite rain being forecast on all the remaining four days.
Bangladesh have only themselves to blame for the situation. To challenge the best players of spin with four slow bowlers will make little sense even on a rank turner. This one is firm but slow, allowing both Vijay and Dhawan to pick their spots with ease. Raw pace could have been a different proposition.
Someone like Rubel Hossain, who has heart and ability to get under the skin of the India batsmen, could have been useful. Bangladesh didn’t show a lot of skill. The first spinner introduced, in the sixth over, was Shuvagata Hom, who till a few months back was a pure batsman. Only Shakib Al Hasan tried to test the batsmen by varying his length. Pacer Mohammad Shahid could have inflicted damage had Mushfiqur Rahim not removed him.
Hom dropped Dhawan close to lunch. The error had more to do with drooping shoulders than anything else. Had Bangladesh batted, it would have allowed them some time to let the pitch break for the spinners. But it boils down to intent. By fielding four spinners, Bangladesh don’t look like they are aiming for a win. India are, and by picking three pacers, Kohli at least has a balanced attack to force a result.