IND vs SL: Kohli and Co. favourite in finale

A charged up Ishant Sharma, with an incisive in-swinger as a lethal weapon in his armoury, will be the man to watch out for his home ground as the pitch is expected to hold good with the ball coming on nicely.

Kohli’s presence on the field is the reason for fans to flock to the venue to watch the longest version of the game, and at the Kotla, his home ground, expect people to arrive in droves on Saturday.   -  PTI

Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli have long been propagating the virtues of Test cricket. They remind us how the purest form of cricket has survived the onslaught of the other two versions of the game – 50 overs and Twenty20.

“Ask any cricketer and he would tell you that Test cricket is ultimate,” Shastri emphasises. Kohli, on the eve of the India-Sri Lanka Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla here, wants youngsters to take to Test cricket in a big way. Worldwide, this format has been facing challenges to survive even as the shortest format of the game thrives.

Friends on and off the field!

Test matches, in a pleasant departure from the past, have become result-oriented. “Few want to play for a draw. Tests are finishing within four days. The game has changed,” maintains Shastri. The game has changed because players have changed.

The teams:

India: Virat Kohli (capt.), M. Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Rohit Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Vijay Shankar.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Vishwa Fernando, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Dashun Shanaka, Roshen Silva and Jeffery Vandersay.

The umpires: Nigel Long and Richard Kettleborough. Third umpire: Wilson Joel. Match Referee: David Boon.

 

When a batsman repeatedly plays the reverse sweep in a Test one realises why the game has changed. Batsmen in the past have been punished for playing casual shots – the most striking being Kapil Dev and Sandeep Patil dropped after India lost to England at this very venue in 1984. Both were out to lofted shots and Patil never played a Test again.

Pujara deserves top central contract

Test cricket has witnessed some predictable results in recent times and no team advertises it better than Sri Lanka. The first hour of the Kolkata Test notwithstanding, Sri Lanka, a strong five-day team once, has lacked the punch to cause anxious moments in the Indian camp. The second Test at Nagpur highlighted the difference of quality in the two teams, reviving memories of the 3-0 rout at home early this year that left Sri Lankan cricket deeply wounded.

Sri Lanka is a team in the process of reinventing itself after the retirement of Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, who strove to define the team’s batting strength as showcased by the likes of Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya.

With a rich legacy to imbibe, the pressure on this Sri Lankan side is enormous, especially when combating a performing opponent like India, led by a man who has set his eyes on rewriting the art of batsmanship.

Kohli’s presence on the field is the reason for fans to flock to the venue to watch the longest version of the game.

Players such as Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson, AB de Villiers, David Warner have kept spectators’ interest in Test cricket alive. It is ironic that Cheteshwar Pujara, any captain’s first choice for five-day cricket, languishes in the background.

Pujara is a Test match specialist. His batting is priceless for the team but least appealing to the galleries. It is this paradox that confronts Test cricket in its struggle to stay afloat. Lack of appealing characters is a sore spot in Test cricket’s journey to reclaim its coveted position.

In contrast to the ongoing Ashes, the India-Sri Lanka series pales in comparison. Herding school kids into buses and transforming them into fans can only be termed a desperate measure to fill the stands. Sri Lanka may not be a crowd puller but administrators are confounded by fans not acknowledging the star-studded Indian line up.

On the field, a charged up Ishant Sharma, with an incisive in-swinger as a lethal weapon in his armoury, will be the man to watch on a pitch which is expected to hold good with the ball coming on nicely. Sri Lanka is backing itself to win. On given form, Sri Lanka can pat itself if it can stretch the contest to the fifth day.

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