As the Sri Lankan team prepared for the deciding third Test against Sri Lanka starting at Colombo's Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground on Friday, the uncertainty in the team following Kumar Sangakkara's retirement was evident.
Such is the painful nature of transition that even formidable teams like Australia have felt it.
The last time Sri Lanka played at the SSC ground, in August 2014, they defeated Pakistan to give Mahela Jayawardene a winning farewell. Back again, skipper Angelo Mathews was searching for the right slot for his batsmen, such has been the challenge posed by R Ashwin and Co.
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Focus on pitch
On Thursday, as both teams went through their final training sessions, the familiar uncertainty a sub-continent pitch can cause was in evidence. The surface was hard but the teams were waiting to see if grass would be shaved off.
India are hoping to ride the Virat Kohli wave. Not all have bought into arguments like flexible batting line-up the team management insists on, but purposeful cricket at the P Sara Oval has been wholeheartedly praised.
The battle at SSC, although not a great venue for producing results, will show in which direction the team will travel. If India pull off a win, even against a weakened Sri Lanka, it will be huge. After all, they have won a series in Sri Lanka only once, in 1993.
But it will be a big test of India’s finishing prowess. At Adelaide, in Kohli’s first Test as captain, India fell just short going all out for victory. In the first Test at Galle, India could not convert domination. But the crushing win that soured Sangakkara’s farewell at the P Sara Oval to square the series has tilted the balance in India’s favour.
Team director Ravi Shastri was confident India will play aggressively. "We’ll stick to our guns. We will play the way we have decided, like I said before the first Test. At the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Victory will help Kohli stamp his identity on this young team, having led in only five Tests, although there will also be pressure to deliver. Many past India captains have settled down on home turf, and thus starting with a series win in Sri Lanka will be big. Much like how the 1993 home series against England saw the emergence of Anil Kumble as a new force, Ashwin has made all the difference here. It can develop into a straight contest with left-arm Rangana Herath, who took 14 wickets when Sri Lanka beat Pakistan last year.
Shastri said the captaincy change came at the right time. "It was a good decision (Dhoni stepping down) because it was clear in everyone’s mind, across the media, that this is your future captain, and let him captain in that last Test match in Australia so that all speculation is put to rest. The obvious choice was Virat, but by announcing his retirement, Dhoni made it clear 'I believe this guy is ready and he needs a run'."
"Each captain has his style. You can see with Virat, he is pretty much in your face. He will play to win. And he will want to be positive all the time. There will be intent in anything he does."