The part two of the David vs Goliath battle 2017 between Sri Lanka and India will commence on Thursday in one of the biggest cricket stadiums in the world, Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The first Test will be followed by two more matches in Nagpur and Delhi before the limited-overs clashes begin.
India whitewashed Sri Lanka in all three formats during their recent tour to the island nation but with renewed hopes after winning both Tests against Pakistan in the UAE last month, Chandimal and his men will look to put behind their horror ‘Test’ series at home against the world number one-ranked team.
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Since gaining Test status, India and Australia are two countries where Sri Lanka are yet to win a Test match let alone a series. In 17 games, Sri Lanka have lost 10 and drawn 7 and eight out of the 10 defeats have been by an innings.
The last time Sri Lanka toured India for a Test series in 2009, the visitors had plenty of experience in their ranks and could draw the opening game in Ahmedabad but lost the remaining two matches.
Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne is only 60 runs away from becoming only the second Sri Lankan opener after Sanath Jayasuriya (in 1997 & 2004) to aggregate 1,000 runs in a calendar year. He will have a new partner in Sadeera Samarawickrama who has just played one Test against Pakistan.
The toss-up between Lahiru Thirimanna and Dhananjaya De Silva for the number three position will be a tricky one but due to the former’s experience, the team management might just give him the nod.
පිටියේ කතා – අංක එකේ ටෙස්ට් ක්රිකට් කණ්ඩායමට අභියෝග කරන්නට ශ්රී ලංකාවට හැකි වෙයි ද?
Another conundrum arises whether to play Dasun Shanaka as the seam-bowling all-rounder or to play a specialist batsman in Roshen Silva or to play a third spinner in Lakshan Sandakan but due to the seam-friendly nature of the Kolkata surface where the quicks took 26 of the 40 wickets that fell in the last Test match, the visitors might look for Shanaka to play the 5th bowler’s role.
Rangana Herath who has 405 Test wickets will face off against an opposition that has done well against him. In the recent home series, Herath took just five wickets at an average of 69.40 and overall, he averages 45.96 against India in nine Tests – the highest for him against any opponent.
Probable XI – Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Thirimanna, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage.
India have not lost a home series in any format since being beaten by South Africa in ODIs in 2015 and their biggest decision will be on who would be left out from KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay at the top of the order.
With fast-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya rested for the first two matches, the focus will be on spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to do the job with bat as well with Bhuvneshwar Kumar likely to make it into the lineup on a green surface and do the job as the third seamer.
Before a long tour to South Africa, India will need another clinical performance hence might stick to a first-choice XI in Kolkata.
Probable XI – Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (Captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
All bets, variables and odds are against Sri Lanka. Beating India in their own backyard in Test cricket is one of the toughest things in the planet at present but at least a potent challenge will do a world of good for the Lankans as a start.