Prior to the start of this series, all the talk was about the selection of the Indian squad: not the one that was picked to travel to Bangladesh for three one-day internationals, but the one that would embark on a long five-Test tour of England in the summer.
India had picked an 18-man squad for their first five-Test tour since 2002, and it had its share of hits and misses. The one point that raised the highest amount of chatter was the exclusion of arguably India's fastest bowler, Umesh Yadav.
Experts were stunned, as reported by Scroll.in, as to how a bowler of Yadav's repertoire had been left out of a squad that includes as many as seven bowlers who are not spinners. Given India's restraints in unearthing talented and genuinely quick bowlers, the debate was whether the selectors had erred by leaving him out.
Yadav has had his share of injury problems in the past and has even been guilty of struggling to maintain his consistency, but he was looking good over the last few months and had done reasonably well (11 wickets in 12 matches) in the Indian Premier League on tracks tailor-made for batting.
However, Yadav was in the touring party for the Bangladesh series, along with 14 others who had been given a chance to prove their credentials ahead of the World Cup next year. This was his chance to step up and send a clear message to the selectors that he should be on that plane to England.
For the first ODI against Bangladesh on Sunday, India went in with five bowlers—two quicks, Yadav and Mohit Sharma, and three spinners in Amit Mishra and the debutants Parvez Rasool and Akshar Patel.
Being asked to bowl first on a slow and low track, Indian skipper Suresh Raina gave the new balls to Sharma and Yadav, who still managed to keep the Bangladeshi batsmen on their toes.
While Sharma was his usual incorrigibly accurate self, bowling good length in a line just outside off-stump in the 130s, Yadav cranked up the pace past the 140s and even found some nice away movement from the right-hander.
In Yadav's second over, he received a bit of luck as the umpire erroneously adjudged the struggling Tamim Iqbal caught-behind when replays showed his bat had grazed his pad and not the ball.
Meanwhile, the sweltering heat in Dhaka seemed to have taken a toll on Sharma, as he hobbled off to the pavilion after bowling just four deliveries of his fourth over. He came back to bowl a couple more overs but couldn't continue—he limped off again, seemingly suffering from cramps.
However, Yadav carried on and found Anamul Haque's thick edge in his fourth over but was spilled by Raina at slip. Yadav didn't have to wait long to get his second wicket. In his very next over, Mominul Haque played a loose and uneasy drive that only found a faint edge through to the wicketkeeper.
Yadav's first spell read 5-0-16-2. Are you watching, selectors?
As Yadav was given a breather, Bangladesh got their act together in the middle overs as they took on the Indian spinners on an unresponsive pitch. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim led the charge (59 off 63 balls) and was well-supported by the ever-reliable Shakib Al Hasan (52 off 58 balls), Anamul (44 off 60) and Mahmudullah Riyad (41 off 44 balls). By the time Yadav returned for his second spell, the hosts had recovered from their early stutter to post 165 for four in 36 overs.
Yadav was expected to keep up his pace and consistency in line and length from his first spell but faltered in the latter to the hosts' advantage. He began drifting wide down either side and gifted a few extras and a boundary in his second spell, which lasted two overs after the second drinks break.
Coming back in the death overs for a third spell, Yadav looked like he was running a marathon in the Sahara. The tall and muscular bowler surprisingly huffed and puffed in the afternoon heat and had lost all his rhythm from his opening spell. Mahmudullah and Shakib worked Yadav's woes to their advantage as they provided a much-needed boost to Bangladesh's run-rate.
Yadav's last three overs yielded 25 runs, with his ninth and last one giving away 14, as Bangladesh set India a 273-run target. At one stage, it looked highly unlikely that they would touch 250.
The Indian bowlers' generosity did not affect the result of the game as their weakened, but nevertheless strong batting line-up got them to their revised Duckworth-Lewis target with ease, but for a few nervy overs in the end.
However, apart from Sharma, who bowled just 5.4 overs, there wasn't anyone who particularly impressed, bar for Yadav's first spell. That being said, given the nature of the pitch, which was in no way a bowling paradise for quicks or spinners alike, not many would've expected any better. But could the Indian fast bowlers have done a little better to prepare themselves for the heat?
Raina, expectedly, took his bowlers' side in the post-match chat, as reported by ESPNcricinfo:
"It was very tough for the bowlers in these conditions. Both fast bowlers were cramping up. The toughest conditions we have bowled in, in terms of the heat."
The collapse of the Indian quicks comes as a surprise given the conditions are not too different across the border at home. Regardless, in today's technologically advanced times, with the best of training and conditioning facilities available, should the Indian fans have expected better?
While Sharma is just about beginning his international career and could just be excused for lack of preparedness, Yadav has been around for quite some time now and has a genuine chance to prove why he should have been part of the squad to England.
The conditions in the UK will be nowhere near what the Indians are experiencing in Bangladesh, but as an international fast bowler you're expected to bowl 10 overs to the best of your abilities come rain, hail or sunshine.
Yadav is India's most experienced bowler on the tour, and the younger crop would turn to him for advice. He's expected to be the leader of the attack and has got another couple of games to set things straight.
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