It has been five years, indeed, two World Cups have been played since India and Sri Lanka last squared off in a Test series. The hosts will be looking to turn around the inconsistent form that saw them lose their most recent home series against Pakistan. While Sri Lanka shone in patches, they will need to find ways to be competitive for longer periods and win more sessions. India, however, have not won a Test series overseas in four years and new captain Virat Kohli will identify this tour as a good time to change that.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 7/2
The three-Test home series will serve primarily as a farewell to Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara. His fifteen-year career will come to end with the conclusion of the third Test. At the age of 37, Sangakkara still commands a game capable of featuring in any Test side in the world. He’ll retire fifth on the ICC Test batting rankings and as the fifth-highest Test run scorer of all-time, 38 centuries, 52 fifties and over 12300 runs later. With Lahiru Thirimanne tipped as the next big thing in Sri Lankan batting, he comes into this series with his place in doubt. A string of low scores sees his place up for grabs, especially considering the good form of Upul Tharanga in the tour match against the visitors. Kithuruwan Vithanage has been dropped while Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal have been ruled out with injuries. The most impressive Sri Lankan paceman against Pakistan, Dushmantha Chameera, will also miss the first Test with a side strain. That leaves Dhammika Prasad as the leader of Sri Lanka’s pace attack, supported by Pradeep and the uncapped Vishwa Fernando. Sri Lanka may find life difficult against India’s much vaunted batting line-up with a diminished pace attack.
Virat Kohli has admitted that India are likely to go into the first Test sporting a five-bowler setup, hopeful that the lower-order exploits with the bat can assist the top-order should it be required. Murali Vijay has been India’s most consistent batsman in recent times but will miss the first Test with a hamstring injury. India had a selection dilemma at the top of the order but it now looks as though KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan will form the opening partnership. Rohit Sharma is set to bat at number three as Kohli has preferred the strokemaker in the position to the defensive Cheteshwar Pujara. However, Rohit has passed fifty only twice in his previous seventeen Test innings and he will be beginning to feel the pressure of a necessary big score. Wriddhiman Saha is set to bat at six and has been selected as the wicket-keeper replacement for MS Dhoni. India has opted for a slightly aging spin contingent to back up the mercurial talents of Ravi Ashwin. Harbhajan Singh has been included in the squad in a continuation of his Test career comeback while Amit Mishra has been handed a place for the first time in four years. While this is worrying for India’s next crop of spinners, the side currently carries experience and the right alchemy for Sri Lankan conditions.
Reports are that Sri Lanka are fairly keen on preparing green, seamer friendly tracks in an effort to take the twenty Indian wickets required for victory. However, this may prove a mistake as India’s pace battery looks the better one. Ishant Sharma tore through a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in the warm-up fixture containing three of Sri Lanka’s likely Test top order. In terms of the weather, the news is not good. Taking place in monsoon season, there is rain predicted for every day of the Test.
VERDICT: Draw 13/20
Given the weather conditions during the recent series between Bangladesh and South Africa, I can’t imagine there will be much change to the constant rain in the Bay of Bengal region. India’s arrival was made relatively low-key due to the fact that they were unable to train due to inclement weather. Unfortunately, I cannot tip anything else of value with any certainty. Get on before the price shortens.