Test series preview: Sri Lanka vs India
India will go into their three-match Test series in Sri Lanka as favourites, not only because they are ranked number one in the longest format but because the hosts have some serious concerns in their side.
Sri Lanka struggled for four of the five days in a one-off Test against Zimbabwe recently, but could take some confidence from the fact that they chased down a record score to eventually come out on top.
The home team’s main problem could be in the batting department where they just look short of experience or depth.
Dinesh Chandimal, who was appointed Test captain following the resignation of Angelo Mathews, has not helped matters as he will miss the Test in Galle after contracting pneumonia.
Veteran spinner Rangana Herath, who will be the stand-in skipper for the first Test, will carry the hopes with the ball and will have to have a big series to combat what looks like a powerful Indian batting line-up.
The visitors will be quietly confident of repeating their Test series success 2015, when they beat Sri Lanka 2-1 after losing the first game.
After a rather drawn out saga, captain Virat Kohli finally got his wish granted as Ravi Shastri replaced Anil Kumble as head coach.
Shastri was also in charge of the side that won the series in Sri Lanka two years ago in what was Kohli’s first series as skipper, the two men striking up a good understanding ever since.
Opening batsman Lokesh Rahul will miss the first Test as is down with a fever, meaning India will miss both their first-choice openers as Murali Vijay was ruled out of the tour with an injury.
Abhinav Mukund and Shakhar Dhawan are set to take first strike with the rest of the batting order taking care of itself, although Rohit Sharma, who is a favourite of coach Shastri, could make his way into the playing eleven.
As mentioned before, the 39-year-old Herath will need to have big series if the home are to prevail while the left-arm slow-bowler could also achieve a personal milestone of 400 wickets in this series as he currently sits on 384 scalps.
Former skipper Mathews could also have a point to prove and will need to step up with the bat for his side. Mathews also historically saves his best performances against India, so his side will hope that trend continues.
India captain Kohli has taken on a lot of criticism over the last few weeks for the manner in which Kumble resigned from his job. The skipper will look to shut a few people up with plenty of runs.
Off-spinner Ravi Ashwin has had a quiet last few months as teams focused on limited-overs cricket but the off-spinner will again come to the fore on turning pitches in the subcontinent.
Last five head to head results:
2015: Third Test in Colombo – India won by 117 runs
2015: Second Test in Colombo: India won 278 runs
2015: First Test in Galle – Sri Lanka won by 63 runs
2010: Third Test in Colombo – India won by five wickets
2010: Second Test in Colombo – Draw
Sri Lanka (only for first Test): Rangana Herath (capt), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Malinda Pushpakumara, Nuwan Pradeep
India Test squad: Virat Kohli (capt.), Shikhar Dhawana, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund
First Test 26-30 July in Galle
Second Test 03-07 August in Colombo
Third Test: 12-16 August in Pallekelle
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