Sixteen one-day internationals, five Twenty20s and an Indian Premier League season have been played since the Indian team last featured in a Test match. The scheduling even prompted Sachin Tendulkar to comment on the need to play more matches in the longer version of the game.
The world's highest run-scorer in Tests and ODIs will begin his 21st year in international cricket with a three-match Test series against Sri Lanka at the Sardar Patel stadium, Motera, on Monday. The 20-year celebrations have dominated the lead up to the series and now the focus shifts back to cricket. The real test for the Indian side in the series opener will be its ability to change gears five days after completing a gruelling seven-match ODI series against the Australians.
The Indians suffered a 4-2 defeat against a depleted Australian team and Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara was quick to put pressure on the hosts by saying that he would be keen to see how the team copes with the reversal.
Middle-order stalwarts Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman provide stability to the batting line-up. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was quick to point out that both of them were playing in the longer format for the last few weeks.
“There have been opportunities for the guys who are part of the Test side only. They have played county cricket and Ranji Trophy games,” he said on the eve of the match.
Dhoni admitted that the others would have to adapt quickly to the change in format. “We are playing Test cricket after a long time… The approach has to be different, yes. I think we got some time because the last game against Australia was washed out, so we had some time to mentally tune ourselves and get ready for Test cricket,” he said. “After New Zealand we are playing a Test match for the first time, so we have to plan a bit differently.”
Dhoni, however, declined to comment on the team combination. All he offered to queries regarding the combination was: “We will play our normal combination.”
India, in all probability, will go in with four bowlers with Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra likely to shoulder the spin attack. S Sreesanth is likely to be left out as Dhoni may opt for Ishant Sharma along with Zaheer Khan.
Harbhajan had tormented Sri Lanka at the same venue in the final Test of the 2005 series that India won 2-0 and the hosts would look to maintain the unbeaten home record against Sri Lanka.
100th Test win?
Apart from the unbeaten record against their neighbours from the south, India would also look to register their 100th Test win, on a ground that has already witnessed Sunil Gavaskar becoming the first cricketer to score 10,000 runs and Kapil Dev going past Richard Hadlee's record of 431 wickets.
The historic 10-wicket win over New Zealand in March earlier this year was India's 99th win in 430 Tests and a win here would make India the sixth country to achieve the landmark.
Visitors to go in with five bowlers
While India will be going for a century of wins, the Sri Lankans are sure to play five bowlers to give themselves a shot at winning. Sangakkara admitted that he was in a dilemma over playing three spinners and said they would take a final decision after having a look at the wicket on the morning of the match.
Tillakratne Dilshan has recovered completely from the ankle sprain he suffered in Mumbai during training and will open the innings with southpaw Tharanga Paranavitana.