India vs Sri Lanka: What Dinesh Chandimal & Co need to break losing curse
Sri Lanka suffered a 9-0 ‘tourwash’ in the last series against India at home. Ahead of the first Test starting on Thursday, Dinesh Chandimal’s team faces an uphill task against Virat Kohli’s side and will be desperate to break their winless record in India.cricket Updated: Nov 15, 2017 16:40 IST
Sri Lanka has encountered a roller-coaster 2017. They suffered their first-ever ODI series defeat against Zimbabwe, were ‘tourwashed’ 9-0 across all formats by India and were whitewashed 5-0 by Pakistan. In between, they chased down 380 in a Test versus Zimbabwe and became the first team to defeat Pakistan in a Test series in the UAE since the country was made their home in 2010.
Despite some great moments, Sri Lanka have endured a nightmarish year. They have lost 12 consecutive ODIs, their second-worst streak since 1987-88. Their task will not get any easier, as they have never won a Test against India, and are encountering Virat Kohli’s team on top of their game across all formats.
Ahead of the series, here are some of the must-dos for Sri Lanka if they are to turn the corner in India.
Rangana Herath - key bowler in India
He has been Sri Lanka’s spearhead since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. In the series against Pakistan, which Sri Lanka won 2-0, he became the second Sri Lankan to take 400 wickets. Herath has a marvellous record against most teams, except India.
Apart from his 7/48 in the Galle Test in 2015, which gave Sri Lanka a stunning win, the left-armer has struggled. In nine Tests, he has an average of 45.96, strike-rate of 82.8 and an economy rate of 3.33, his worst among all teams. For Sri Lanka to turn the tide, it is crucial for Herath to overcome his poor record in India.
Big opening, middle order stands necessary
Sri Lanka’s problems in Tests in 2017 have been lack of big partnerships. In five Tests against India and Pakistan, there have been only five century partnerships and only one fifty-plus opening stand. The lack of big partnerships has indicated the unwillingness of the Sri Lankan batsmen to grind it out and build a foundation.
Top batsmen must step up
Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne form the batting core. However, two out of the three have struggled for consistency. Against India, Chandimal managed only 96 runs at an average of 24 while Mathews scored 182 runs at 30.33. In the Pakistan series, the Sri Lankan skipper managed to score 224 runs at an average of 74.66.
The inconsistency of Chandimal and Mathews’ moderate returns plus fitness issues have put pressure on Dimuth Karunaratne, but the left-hander has responded. Karunaratne made 285 runs at 41 in the India series, while against Pakistan he topped the batting charts with 306 runs at 76.50. Karunaratne has shared partnerships with the middle order and has shown the ability to value his wicket. This asset will be valuable on tough Indian pitches.
Must counter Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja
In 2015, Ravichandran Ashwin took 21 wickets. In 2017, the off-spinner snapped up 17 wickets in three Tests. Ashwin has been Sri Lanka’s chief tormentor. The off-spinner, who requires eight wickets to reach 300 wickets, was the chief destroyer in the 2016/17 home season when he picked 82 wickets in 14 Tests. Along with Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja has complemented Ashwin brilliantly. The spin duo has run through oppositions and Sri Lanka will be hoping to avoid a similar fate.