Aggressive India look to get combination right vs Sri Lanka

  • N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times, Galle
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 09:11 IST

Sri Lanka's retiring great Kumar Sangakkara poured his 15 years of perspective, saying that it was important that future Sri Lanka players showed "situational intelligence". He could well have spoken for rivals India, as they square up in the first Test starting on Wednesday.

On their last full series, in Australia, India's fast bowlers let the hosts off the hook in the second Test in Brisbane, pitching it repeatedly short to let Mitchell Johnson, subdued until then, take the match away. A reprieved Australia killed off India in four days to go 2-0 up in the series.

As on the last two days, the Galle International Stadium ground stayed under covers with truck tyres to hold them down. With more rain forecast for the week, it remains to be seen how the Test pans out. With India not being able to train on Tuesday, and with no idea about the pitch, skipper Virat Kohli didn't have to talk about the bowling combination.

Spun out

He was relaxed ahead of his first full-fledged series as skipper. A question about him jabbing outside off-stump to be dismissed cheaply of late was met with a wide grin. "Jabbing at the ball has nothing to do with the captaincy," he joked.

India will be aware of Sri Lanka's frailties, though Galle is their fortress. At home, Sri Lanka won nine out of 10 Test series between August 2004 and August 2009, during the Muttiah Muralitharan era. Out of the next 10 series, only three have gone their way. Their last outing at Galle, against Pakistan was a disasterous four-day defeat after the opening day was washed out. While the batsmen were spun out by leg-spinner Yasir Shah, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath managed one wicket.

But India have put themselves under pressure with talk of all-out aggression. Although they will miss the injured Murali Vijay, young opener KL Rahul, who hit a century in his second Test in Sydney, looks in good touch. The series could well be decided by Kohli's captaincy and the bowling attack.

Composure matters

The pacers cannot afford another off-day like in Australia, and Kohli will need to be more flexible as captain, which he admitted. "Even if it's an off-day, you still have time to re-group and think about what went wrong. If it's a good day, you can learn from it. As a captain you always feel more time with the team, and with more games to play, there are better chances of creating an environment that you require the team to be in."

While the Adelaide Test experiment of all-out attack can't be applied every time, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have to find their rhythm early. "It really depends on what the opposition is playing like or what the situation demands you to do," he said. "But it really depends on the start of a Test match or a series and accordingly you have to conserve your energy or your resources. There is no point going all out if there is nothing happening - for example in the wicket for any bowler if there is no point wasting his energy too much."

For that India will need to add composure to skill. "Where we lacked in Australia was in composure. That's something we spoke about as a squad. You can see that the kind of times we had in Australia, in those sessions where we did leak a few runs, that has hurt them and they want to improve on that which is a great sign."


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