India toured Bangladesh in 2022/23 for two Test matches and won the series 2-0. Tawhid Qureshi’s report appeared in the 2023 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

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India’s visit began against the backdrop of a nation enthralled by the football World Cup, and ended with a nail-biting Christmas Day finale, the first Test cricket on December 25 for 40 years. It was the first time since June 2015 that India – whose hectic schedule had left the players looking jaded – had visited Bangladesh for a bilateral series.

A team studded with household names should have excited Bangladesh supporters. However, there was a low-key feel to the start of the tour, as events in Qatar cast a spell on a country with little footballing pedigree. The most curious aspect was the fanatical support of Argentina, which penetrated all parts of Bangladesh society. This seemingly dates from the Maradona-inspired victory in 1986, the first World Cup widely viewed in Bangladesh. Now, Argentine flags and shirts were abundant in Dhaka and Chittagong – and the cricketers were not impervious to the trend. It raised the possibility of sleep-deprived players, since Argentina’s semi-final was due to finish just hours before the start of the first Test. Bangladesh’s coach, Russell Domingo, pleaded with his men: “You can’t be watching football until three in the morning.”

There were no Super League points at stake in the one-day internationals, but the first two were mini-classics, and the third dominated by the format’s fastest double-century, by India’s Ishan Kishan, who put on 290 with Virat Kohli. Even so, Bangladesh – always tough opponents in home conditions – ran out 2-1 winners in their favourite format. It was a landmark series for Mehedi Hasan, who underlined his all-round credentials, and hinted he might one day fill the boots of Shakib Al Hasan. Mehedi produced two outstanding innings, both digging his team out of a considerable hole.

The Test series was more significant, at least as far as India were concerned, with precious World Test Championship points up for grabs. By winning 2-0, they took a step closer to qualifying for the final in England in June 2023, but the manner of their victories exposed underlying frailties. An unreliable batting unit seemed dependent on ageing stars, while a tendency towards conservative strategy was put into sharp relief by England’s miraculous exploits in Pakistan around the same time. The second Test at Mirpur, which India eventually won by three wickets, could easily have gone the other way: chasing only 145, they had slumped to 74-7 before canny batting from Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin took them home. Within days, Domingo had resigned, while Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant – whose batting helped win the second Test – was involved in a serious car accident back home, and taken to hospital.

India touring party: *RG Sharma (T/50), R Ashwin (T), DL Chahar (50), S Dhawan (50), AR Easwaran (T), S Gill (T), SS Iyer (T/50), IP Kishan (50), V Kohli (T/50), Mohammed Shami (50), RR Pant (T/50), AR Patel (T/50), RM Patidar (50), CA Pujara (T), KL Rahul (T/50), N Saini (T), Saurabh Kumar (T), KR Sen (50), Shahbaz Ahmed (50), M Siraj (T/50), K Srikar Bharat (T), SN Thakur (T/50), RA Tripathi (50), Umran Malik (50), JD Unadkat (T), MS Washington Sundar (50), K Yadav (T/50), UT Yadav (T). Coach: R Dravid.

Tamim Iqbal captained in the ODIs. Shakib Al Hasan was persuaded to stay on for the Tests, having originally requested a break, but did not play after several family members contracted Covid. Shoriful Islam and Taskin Ahmed returned home injured after the first Test.

Sharma injured his thumb during the second ODI, and missed the rest of the tour; Rahul captained in the last ODI and the Tests. Y Dayal was selected for the ODIs, but ruled out by back trouble, and replaced by Sen. RA Jadeja, included in both squads, failed to recover from knee surgery, and was replaced for the ODIs by Shahbaz Ahmed. Mohammed Shami injured his shoulder, and was replaced by Umran Malik (ODIs) and Unadkat (Tests). K Yadav was added to the ODI squad, while Easwaran, Saini and Saurabh Kumar reinforced the Test party. Pant was originally named for the ODIs, before being rested.

First one-day international At Mirpur, December 4, 2022 (day/night). Bangladesh won by 1 wicket. India 186 (41.2 overs) (KL Rahul 73; Shakib Al Hasan 5-36, Ebadat Hossain 4-47); Bangladesh 187-9 (46 overs) (Litton Das 41, Mehedi Hasan 38*; M Siraj 3-32). PoM: Mehedi Hasan. ODI debut: KR Sen (India).

Second one-day international At Mirpur, December 7, 2022 (day/night). Bangladesh won by 5 runs. Bangladesh 271-7 (50 overs) (Mahmudullah 77, Mehedi Hasan 100*; MS Washington Sundar 3-37); India 266-9 (50 overs) (SS Iyer 82, AR Patel 56, RG Sharma 51*; Ebadat Hossain 3-45). PoM: Mehedi Hasan.

Third one-day international At Chittagong, December 10, 2022 (day/night). India won by 227 runs. India 409-8 (50 overs) (IP Kishan 210, V Kohli 113, MS Washington Sundar 37); Bangladesh 182 (34 overs) (Shakib Al Hasan 43; SN Thakur 3-30). PoM: IP Kishan. PoS: Mehedi Hasan.

First Test at Chittagong, December 14-18, 2022: India won by 188 runs

India 12pts. Toss: India. Test debuts: Zakir Hasan.

Bangladesh’s first-innings failure, combined with a litany of dropped catches, missed run-outs and poor use of DRS, led to their downfall on a pitch known for becoming easier to bat on. Kuldeep Yadav’s left-arm wrist-spin, an unfamiliar challenge for even the most experienced batsman, claimed eight wickets in his first Test since February 2021, and contributed significantly to a comprehensive Indian win.

The hosts had given a debut to Zakir Hasan, a stocky left-handed opener, who had sealed his place with a rearguard innings of 173 against India A two weeks previously. It proved an inspired selection: his composed and determined century was the lone ray of light in an otherwise fallible batting display. India were forced into a captaincy change, after Rohit Sharma injured his thumb during the one-day series. Rahul took over, with his own form under scrutiny, and ended the series with his place under threat.

After losing the toss, Bangladesh began brightly, picking up three wickets in the opening session, including Kohli for a single. Things should have got worse for India after lunch, but Pujara had two reprieves – a sharp chance behind the stumps and a more straightforward catch in the deep, spilled by Ebadat Hossain. Bangladesh’s substandard fielding would haunt them throughout the series.

There was a flurry of activity late on the first day, including the peculiar sight of the ball brushing Iyer’s off stump but the bails staying put. Pujara fell for 90, and the wicket of Patel to the final delivery meant honours were roughly even. Next day, though, a grinding eighth-wicket stand of 92 off 200 balls between Ashwin and Kuldeep turned the match India’s way, helping their side to 404.

In reply, Nazmul Hossain – who had fallen first ball in the opening ODI – poked at Siraj’s first delivery, on a fifth-stump line, and was caught behind. The other batsmen were initially unable to come to terms with Siraj’s pace and bluster, or later with Kuldeep’s tricks and treats. There were some poor shots, notably when Litton Das, Bangladesh’s most gifted bat, was beaten for pace moments after an exchange of words with Siraj, and when Shakib Al Hasan, flippantly playing against the turn, edged to a delighted Kohli at slip.

Although India led by 254, there was never much likelihood of Rahul enforcing the follow-on – a safety-first strategy underlined by a declaration which set Bangladesh a colossal 513. India might have been mindful of Kyle Mayers’ extraordinary match-winning fourth-innings double-century here for West Indies early in 2021. Rahul had called a halt only after Pujara reached an uncharacteristically dynamic century, from 130 balls – the quickest of his 19 Test hundreds, and his first in almost four years. Gill also took advantage of an injury-ravaged attack – both Shakib and Ebadat were missing – to rack up a silky maiden Test century.

The third day coincided with Bangladesh Victory Day, but a win for the nation’s cricketers was always a remote prospect, even if a lack of expectation allowed Zakir and Nazmul to play with freedom. An opening stand of 124 allowed Bangladesh fans to dream of the improbable, although Kuldeep’s oddly belated introduction prolonged the contest. Zakir completed a five-hour hundred, which helped extend the match into fifth day, but the spinners worked their way through. Shakib briefly threatened, hitting six sixes in his 84, but India’s victory margin reflected their dominance.

Player of the Match: K Yadav.

Second Test at Mirpur, December 22-25, 2022: India won by 3 wickets

India 12pts. Toss: Bangladesh.

India’s thrilling win, which gave them the series 2-0, highlighted the best and worst qualities of both teams. Crucial dropped catches featured prominently, as did the Bangladesh spinners’ mastery of home conditions. But India’s nous at critical moments won the day: an assertive partnership between Iyer and Ashwin dragged them over the line, though it highlighted the lack of urgency shown by those up the order, which contributed to a dip to 74-7 chasing a modest target of 145.

Events might have turned out differently had Mominul Haque, the former captain recalled for this match, taken a chance at short leg with Ashwin yet to play himself in; that would have made it 80-8. Mominul had earlier clung on to a near identical catch to dismiss Kohli, to shrieks of delight from his team-mates.

India had raised eyebrows on the opening morning by omitting Kuldeep Yadav, their match-winner at Chittagong, in favour of left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat, who received a second cap 12 years after his debut. Bangladesh retained an iron-clad confidence in a three-pronged spin attack, on a pitch that exhibited its usual traits of low bounce and slow turn.

Bangladesh’s modest first innings was underpinned by Mominul’s 84, a welcome return to form for a player who had suffered a spectacular fall from grace: after starting 2022 with 88 against New Zealand, he had made only 78 runs in 12 Test innings before being dropped, losing the captaincy along the way. Ashwin and Umesh Yadav took full advantage of Bangladesh’s soft middle, which displayed ever more faltering concentration: Shakib Al Hasan’s dismissal to the first ball after lunch, and Litton Das’s tame chip to midwicket, were cases in point. The last five wickets fell for 14 and, even accounting for the pitch, a total of 227 felt like an underachievement.

The second day coincided with the IPL mini-auction. Neither Iyer nor Pant needed to prove their worth to the franchises, but their breezy knocks set up a handy lead of 87, after their fifth-wicket stand of 159 constituted more than half the total. Both survived chances and, when Mehedi Hasan dropped Iyer at point, he contrived to give himself a bloody nose for good measure. Pant, who hit five sixes, adding colour with his distinctive one-handed shots, was eventually dismissed in the nineties for the sixth time in his 33 Tests, when he attempted to play a flat delivery off the back foot, and edged to the keeper.

Zakir Hasan continued his happy start to Test cricket by compiling another fifty, and Litton looked effortless in a bid to set a meaningful target. He found allies in Nurul Hasan and Taskin Ahmed, before he was undone by the extra zip and inswing of Siraj. Kohli endured an ignominious third day, shelling three catches at slip, and becoming involved in ugly stand-off with Bangladesh’s fielders after his dismissal late in the evening.

India’s lethargic pursuit began to unravel almost as soon as it began. Mehedi prised open the top order, and the promotion of Patel and Unadkat looked a desperate attempt to protect Pant and Iyer. After resuming the fourth day on 45-4, they lost three further wickets inside seven overs, and were staring at an embarrassing defeat. But Ashwin, that most pragmatic of cricketers, seized the moment. With Iyer playing second fiddle, he calmly guided India to a memorable victory – and maximum points in the World Test Championship.

Player of the Match: R Ashwin.
Player of the Series: CA Pujara.