A 2-0 whitewash would be a fine start to Rohit Sharma's Test captaincy, following a 3-0 clean sweep in the T20Is. For Dimuth Karunaratne, it is a chance to make amends after the innings defeat in Mohali. It will be a clash between two sides with contrasting motivations when India faces Sri Lanka in the day-night Test at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium from Saturday.
India's last pink-ball Test at home, against England in Ahmedabad in 2021, had finished within two days, the shortest completed Test since 1935.
In Mohali, India's batting looked in healthy shape. By making the highest score by an Indian at No. 7 or lower in the last match, world No. 1 all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja displayed the value he brings to the lower-middle order.
On Friday, during India's nearly 75-minute-long optional practice session, Jadeja spent considerable time warming up under the supervision of physio Nitin Patel and strength & conditioning coach Soham Desai before a short but sharp burst with the ball and the bat. In the near distance, the rest of the Indian players were loosening up, with captain Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid taking a hard stare at the track, which wore a slightly dry, brown look.
Shortly after, Rohit took throwdowns from batting coach Vikram Rathour with Dravid watching on. Rathour largely sent down short-pitched and full-length balls, with Rohit either rolling his wrists on the pull to keep the ball down or going on the back foot to punch through point.
Rohit's love-hate relationship with the short ball continued in the first Test, where he found long-leg with a pull, off pacer Lahiru Kumara. Rohit’s proclivity for the pull and hook against the short ball is well known, but he has also been out playing that shot. So, Sri Lanka may target Rohit with short balls again and see if they can induce an error early in his innings. Rohit and Dravid were among the last men, along with support staff, to walk out of the training.
The first Test answered a few questions about the Indian Test team, but not everything. The wait for the 71st hundred continues for Virat Kohli, but that is not as much a reflection of his batting as it is of the testing attacks and conditions he has faced of late.
Siraj or Axar
In bowling, Axar Patel is back in India's squad, replacing left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who has been released. Axar is likely to be in India's XI if the host side persists with a three-spinner ploy. In the only pink-ball Test match he has played, Axar took 11 wickets. However, India might also be tempted to try Mohammed Siraj with the pink ball. In the course of the match, off-spinner R. Ashwin, who went past Kapil Dev in Mohali as the second-highest wicket-taker for India, will also have his sights set on Dale Steyn’s 439.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is grappling with injury concerns. Pathum Nissanka, the lone bright spot with the bat in the first Test, is out with a back injury. Dinesh Chandimal could replace him.
Among bowlers, Lasith Embuldeniya fared well in Mohali but was the sole specialist spinner. With India playing a clutch of right-handers, Sri Lanka may play two left-arm spinners and give Praveen Jayawickrama, 23, a look in. With Lahiru out due to a hamstring tear, Sri Lanka may look at playing Chamika Karunaratne. This is Suranga Lakmal’s last series, and he would hope for a winning farewell.
From the two previous day-night Tests in India, it appeared that the movement of the SG pink ball in the air and off the surface was largely the same as that of the red ball. But the pink ball's deviation through the air was more pronounced after passing the batter. How batters from both sides negotiate the pink ball in twilight could prove decisive.
For India, which is currently No. 5 in the World Test Championship points table, a 2-0 win will keep hopes of reaching the final alive.
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