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India vs Sri Lanka: Virat Kohli's men in quest to break 22-year-old jinx

Rohan Raj | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:38 IST

In a bid to end a barren phase in Sri Lanka, the Virat Kohli-led Team India will lock horns with Angelo Mathews' men in the first Test at Galle starting from 12 August.

Since the 1-0 victory by the Mohammad Azharuddin-led team in 1993, the Indian cricket team has failed to register a single win in Sri Lanka in 22-long years. India played four series on the island since, losing in 2001 and 2008 while drawing in 1997 and 2010.

However, under the leadership of the aggressive Virat Kohli, India will not get a better opportunity to do away with the shambolic record. Also, India's last overseas win in Tests came only in 2014 at Lord's against England.

The hosts are not in sublime form themselves. Less than a month ago, the Lankans suffered a 1-2 series loss at the hands of Pakistan. Barring Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, their batting looks pedestrian at best, with a few players making a comeback to the team.

But given the familiar conditions and presence of their batting legend Sangakkara, Sri Lankans can surely give the young Indian side a run for their money. The hosts will also be eager to give a fitting farewell to Sangakkara with a series win against India.

Batting department

India:

The young Indian brigade has managed to battle the odds and looks competitive despite the recent lack of results. At the top, Murali Vijay has been in sublime form since 2014 which makes his absence, due to hamstring injury, critical for the visitors. Vijay's injury has paved the way for the 23-year-old Karnataka batsman K L Rahul who will partner Shikhar Dhawan at the top for India.

Rahul scored a hundred in his last Test and looked particularly well in the practice game against Sri Lanka President's XI. Dhawan himself has been in fine form and will be eager to silence his critics for doubting his presence in Tests.

Rohit Sharma, at the No. 3, will be desperate to repay Virat Kohli's faith by performing for India. Despite an influential outing against Australia in 2014-15, Kohli has struggled to score runs this year and needs to make his presence felt in the upcoming Test.

Ajinkya Rahane was the lone centurion for India in the recent warm-up match against Sri Lanka President's XI and has been on high ever since the South African tour in 2013-14. His form will be pivotal for India's middle-order on the slow Lankan pitches. Wriddhiman Saha is likely to bat at the No. 6 spot which gives the opponents a chance to exploit India's depth in batting.

Sri Lanka:

If India lack depth in their batting, the Lankans are going through a rebuilding phase with many new faces in the side, adding to their batting woes. Barring Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, the remaining batsmen are either inexperienced or making a comeback in the Lankan side.

The opening pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva looks solid at the top order but the duo is far from being consistent. Lahiru Thirimanne has been prolific for the Lankans but his form in Tests has been a work in progress so far.

Dinesh Chandimal, despite the lack of runs in Tests, will be crucial in anchoring Sri Lanka's middle-order against India in the series. Jehan Mubarak and Upul Tharanga are making a comeback to the playing XI and are yet to prove their worth in the longer version of the game.

Kusal Perera is undoubtedly the player to watch out for in the Lankan team following his batting heroics against Pakistan in the ODIs and T20s. But the left-hander's patience will be tested thoroughly against a well-equipped Indian bowling attack.

Bowling department

India:

Virat Kohli-led India boast a fairly competitive bowling attack, if not threatening, against the Lankans. Ishant Sharma has been India's most consistent seam bowler for quite some time now. The lanky seamer, who picked five wickets, was unplayable in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka President's XI.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has a knack of picking up wickets at regular intervals, will provide adequate support to India's seam bowling. Umesh Yadav is likely to be India's third seamer ahead of Varun Aaron who has been wayward in his recent outings.

Ravichandran Ashwin has been India's premier spinner for quite some time now and will surely be India's trump card on the slow and turning Lankan wickets. Virat Kohli's decision to play two spinners could see a close fight between veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra for a spot in the team.

Sri Lanka:

The Lankans are evenly matched with their counterparts as far as the bowling attack is concerned. Dhammika Prasad has been consistent in picking up wickets and the familiar conditions will only make him lethal against India. However, the dismal form of their bowling stalwart Rangana Herath will be an area of concern for the hosts.

Nuwan Pradeep is an improving bowler who is likely to perform while newcomer Vishwa Fernando is more or less an unpredictable seamer. Dilruwan Perera and Tharindu Kaushal have both looked impressive of late, but without Herath's form the Lankan attack lacks the venom that made them such a dangerous side, especially at home.

India's five-bowler strategy

Virat Kohli, who took over the reins from M S Dhoni in 2014, has proved to be far more aggressive than his predecessor. Kohli's advocacy for a five-bowler attack against the Lankans in the upcoming series shows a glimpse of an aggressive brand of leadership.

Ahead of the series, Kohli had stressed that he would like to play five bowlers in order to give the team a chance to take 20 wickets and also that three spinners could be a reality during the series.

"You need to play a stronger bowling side in order to win Test matches and it's more exciting and satisfying as well. Yes, that's a possibility (three spinners). The idea is to take 20 wickets. I strongly believe that you need to your best bowlers to play in order to give your team a chance to do that. The whole idea of playing five bowlers is that the top six have to take more responsibility," the skipper said.

Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are an automatic selection for seam bowling while Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to play ahead of veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh. But it'll be interesting to see whether Kohli opts for the fourth seamer instead of a second spinner in the upcoming Test.

Kumar Sangakkara's farewell

Sri Lanka's batting legend, whose 12,305 runs make him the leading run-scorer among those still playing Test cricket, is due to quit international cricket after the second Test between India and Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Ahead of the Galle Test, former Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene hailed Sangakkara as the "greatest batsman" to have emerged from the island nation since their entry into international cricket.

"Great man and a great cricketer, he deserves a very good farewell and we will prepare accordingly. But hopefully we will also get him out cheaply," Indian captain Virat Kohli also praised Sangakkara.

The 37-year-old cricketer, who retired from ODIs early in 2015 and T20s in 2014, is the second-highest run-scorer in ODI matches and the fifth-highest run-scorer in Test matches. In terms of number of innings required, Sangakkara is the fastest batsman to reach 8,000, 9,000, 11,000 and 12,000 runs in Test cricket.

Squads

India: Virat Kohli (c), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Murali Vijay

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Upul Tharanga, Jehan Mubarak, Kusal Perera, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhammika Prasad, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera

First published: 11 August 2015, 8:01 IST
 
Rohan Raj @ro4an_raj

After a poor stint in gully-cricket quashed his hopes of turning pro, Rohan moved away from the playing field and began criticising those who were still on it. Football eases his mind and watching City paint Manchester blue is his elusive dream. When not talking, thinking or dreaming about sports, Rohan can be found listening to EDM or watching movies. A sports correspondent at Catch News, he has previously worked with Hindustan Times, Daily Bhaskar and India Today.

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