Old opponent, fresh challenge for confident India

Three months after a 3-0 whitewash, Sri Lanka has the chance to start on a clean slate again at a lush Eden Gardens.

With more rain having been forecast for the next two days, the first Test could run into rough weather.   -  K. R. Deepak

Dark skies, sharp bursts of showers, covers on the ground and players staying indoors…not the best news for cricket on the eve of a Test.

It rained hard here on Wednesday and more downpours have been forecast over the next two days. The first India-Sri Lanka Test could run into rough weather. The good news is that the entire ground has been protected by tarpaulin sheets. Unless there is seepage, play could start within 30 minutes of the rain stopping.

Still on weather, it does get dark pretty early in these parts. In this context, both teams, significantly, have agreed to the use of floodlight in case the light deteriorates.

Seamer-friendly surface

On an already green surface – it is now clear that much of the grass would remain on the track – the team getting the toss right might want to bowl first considering there could be moisture on the pitch.

The present Sri Lankan team might not be the most threatening of oppositions – in fact, the islanders over the years are still to win a Test in India – but the host deserves credit for preparing a green-top. It indicates a shift in mind-set. Rather than reeling out victories on spinner friendly tracks, the Indian team wants to challenge itself. This reflects a surge in belief.

Read: Openers give India selection headache

Winning instils confidence and confident teams win more – the two are intertwined. No. 1 ranked team in Tests, Virat Kohli and his men appear keen to raise the bar.

Playing on a lively track with bounce will also be a good preparation for the Indian team ahead of the important Test series in South Africa. It would allow its batsmen to get into a frame of mind where they would have to play and leave, bat close to the body and essay the horizontal bat shots when the bowlers err in length.

And the pacemen will have the opportunity to run into a rhythm. India is likely to play three pacemen and two spinners in R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Given the conditions, the host may have fielded an additional paceman but would then have run into problems managing the over-rate.

Sri Lanka no pushover

It now appears, and Kohli did appear to throw a hint, that K. L. Rahul would open with Shikhar Dhawan with M. Vijay missing out. If this happens, it would mark a departure for the team from its philosophy of reinstating into XI players returning from injuries.

India may have dominated Sri Lanka of late in Tests but Dinesh Chandimal’s side is no pushover. After all, following the debacle at home against India earlier this year, Sri Lanka did outplay Pakistan 2-0 in the Test series in the UAE. Chandimal is a feisty stroke-maker who has shown character in recent games. And the return of the battle-hardened Angelo Mathews lends greater weight to the Sri Lankan middle-order; he will bat at No. 4.

And men such as the solid Dimuth Karunaratne, experienced southpaw Lahiru Thirimanne and the dashing wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella are not without ability. Yet, the Sri Lankan line-up has shown a tendency to collapse under pressure.

The Sri Lankan pace attack of the lanky Suranga Lakmal – he can extract disconcerting bounce - left-armer Vishwa Fernando and seamer Lahiru Gamage could probe the strong Indian batting. Left-arm pacemen have troubled India in the past and Fernando is sharp and skilful.

The wily, old soldier, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath is around too.

An interesting duel beckons…if the rain abates.

  • India (from): Virat Kohli (c), M. Vijay, K. L. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma.
  • Sri Lanka (from): Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella (wk) Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Vishwa Fernando, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Dashun Shanaka, Roshen Silva.
  • Match starts at 9.30 a.m.

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