IND vs SL: New start for Rohit Sharma's Team India in Virat Kohli's 100th Test

Virat Kohli, the batter, will be one of the main objects of focus during the first Test against Sri Lanka at the PCA stadium in Mohali.

Rohit Sharma (left) will surely want to establish his imprint without losing the gains made under Virat Kohli.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.R. DEEPAK

After six years of facilitating the team’s unprecedented success, sharpening its killer instinct, intimidating opponents, and sowing the seeds for a world-class fast-bowling attack, Virat Kohli braces up for the third phase of his prosperous Test career, now with the responsibility of captaincy away from him for good. 

Kohli, the batter, will be one of the main objects of focus during the first Test against Sri Lanka at the PCA stadium here.

The Indian cricket team has gone through abrupt changes in recent months, and perhaps a decisive shift in the ethos is palpable. The old bullishness is slowly giving away to prudence and caution.

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Friday’s Test won’t feature regulars Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha, some of whom seem to be well past their prime and all of whom have been judged based on their performances as well as their value for the future. 

The selectors have instead thrown a lifeline to players who haven’t been in the periphery of the national team despite performances in first-class cricket: Priyank Panchal, who has been piling on runs for a decade for Gujarat; S. Bharat, a capable bat and a reliable guard behind the stumps for Andhra; and Saurabh Kumar, the left-arm spinner for Uttar Pradesh.

New challenge for Rohit

India’s fresh start in 2022 is being shepherded in by Rohit Sharma, an excellent batter but one who struggled to cement his spot in the Test team for several years. Now a regular in the red-ball format with runs in England last year, Rohit earned the captaincy after 15 years of international cricket across formats.

The legacy of Kohli is a big one – victories in SENA countries (only in South Africa and New Zealand success has eluded the side) - and Rohit will surely want to establish his imprint without losing the gains made under Kohli.

His captaincy record with Mumbai Indians will give him confidence for the top job, but leading the team in Test cricket is a wholly different challenge, a fact he admitted in the press conference. The upcoming Test, then also becomes a trial for the untested Rohit for his decision-making capacities, his intuitions, and his body language.

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India may see new spinners blossom under Rohit, and it remains to be seen if he can provide the finishing touches to the team's dominance in England and Australia. 

Dimuth Karunaratne’s Sri Lanka will be keen to spring a surprise and obtain its first-ever win in India, in what will be its 300th Test. It can take inspiration from Bandula Warnapura’s team in September 1982 that came three wickets close to securing a victory.

Stalwarts Angelo Mathews, Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal lend weight to the batting, and the team has promising young players in Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka. The spin attack led by Lasith Embuldeniya, however, isn’t too strong; Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinner, hasn’t yet recovered from COVID-19.

For India, the major puzzle will be the middle-order slots left vacant, for Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer are all capable batters, in form and possessing excellent credentials. The three fast bowlers chosen for this game could be Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah, the vice-captain.

Teams (from)

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hanuma Vihari, S. Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Saurabh Kumar, Jayant Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah (vc), Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Dhananjaya de Silva (vc), Angelo Mathews, Charith Asalanka, Kusal Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando, Praveen Jayawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay.

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