New Delhi: Number one Test team India would aim to continue the winning momentum and emulate their recent success against Sri Lanka when the neighbours meet in the first of the three-Test at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. The victory in upcoming series will also help the Men in Blue to go into the forthcoming South Africa tour with complete confidence.
Not long ago in August, Sri Lanka were destroyed 9-0 across all formats in their own den by a ruthless India led by their aggressive skipper Virat Kohli.
Since then, the men in blue have won limited overs series against Australia and New Zealand at home, while Sri Lanka — still in transition after the retirements of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara — triumphed 2-0 over Pakistan in Tests only to lose five One Day Internationals and three T20s against the same opposition.
For a start, skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane will look to get back amongst runs.
While Kohli’s last big score came way back in February against Bangladesh where he struck 204, Rahane has not got a hundred since his 188 against the Kiwis in Indore last year. Kohli has not got a half-century in his last five Test innings, and Rahane has been guilty of not converting his starts.
Both ace batters practised a lot of reverse and paddle sweeps at the nets in the build-up to the Test.
Kohli, who has been dismissed trying to drive on the front foot of late and playing away from his body, even got the handle of his bat trimmed during nets on Monday to rectify his drive.
Rahane, on the same day, was seen fine-tuning his reverse-sweep against chinaman Kuldeep Yadav square and fine of the wicket, a weapon the right-hander might use against veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
India have been aggressive against Herath, Sri Lanka’s highest wicket-taker in the team, in recent past.
In the last two years, the 39-year old who has 405 scalps to his name, has averaged 53.61 against India, taking 13 wickets in four Tests and giving away 3.58 runs per over.
It goes without saying that Herath will be skipper Dinesh Chandimal’s go-to man beside Angelo Mathews, who is making a comeback. Out of the Pakistan series with a calf injury, the former skipper looked good for his 54 retired in the warm-up game against the Board President’s XI.
Sri Lanka’s bowling did not look good against a lowly Board President’s side shorn of quality domestic players due to the ongoing Ranji Trophy.
They could only manage to take five wickets although Herath, who took 16 scalps in two Tests against Pakistan, was not bowled much.
In their batting, opener Dimuth Karunarate has been among runs in Pakistan (306 runs in 4 innings). Fellow opener Sadeera Samarawickrama, slated to replace Kaushal Silva who is not here, gave a good audition in the tour match with a strokeful 74 of just 77 balls.
Besides Silva, the Lankans are also without the services of promising batsman Kushal Mendis and seasoned pacer Nuwan Pradeep.
Coming back to India, with in-form all-rounder Hardik Pandya rested for this series it will be interesting to see who takes his place. Going by the nature of the pitch which is expected to be a sporting one, India could play five bowlers with three seamers in their ranks.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been in good form of late, could come into the picture alongside Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami. R Ashwin and Kuldeep are the likely two spinners, meaning Ravindra Jadeja might have to sit out.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella (wicket-keeper), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Dasun Shanaka and Roshen Silva. (With IANS inputs)