India suffered a big blow ahead of the first Test match against Sri Lanka starting on Wednesday with opener Murali Vijay ruled out due to a right hamstring injury.
Vijay, who has been one of India’s most consistent batsmen over the last two seasons in which India have played overseas, suffered the strain while playing during the limited-overs series in Zimbabwe last month. On Monday, he was at the nets, repeatedly stretching his leg while batting to check if he felt comfortable. The prognosis obviously didn’t prove good.
"Vijay will not be fit. He is still recovering and we don't want to risk him," team director Ravi Shastri told a news conference. "It is a big blow. He is the in-form player and has the ability to play a long innings. He will be missed."
Vijay did not play in the three-day warm-up tie against the Sri Lankan Board President’s XI, although he has hit the nets during every practice session. Skipper Virat Kohli had spoken about the healthy competition between India’s three openers, but Vijay was clearly the No 1 and would have played if fit.
Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, in competition for the second opener’s slot, will now open the innings together. Rahul had hit a century in Sydney in only his second Test after coming in place of Dhawan, who was dropped following a poor run. But Dhawan got his spot back for the one-off Test against Bangladesh in Fatullah in June after Rahul missed to match due to dengue.
India are seeking their first Test victory in Sri Lanka since 1993.
Vijay, 31, has been one batsman who has been consistent on all the tours India have gone on since late 2013, his top scores on the Test tours of South Africa, England, Australia and Bangladesh being 97, 146, 144 and 150, missing out only in New Zealand early last year.
His disappointment was compounded on Monday after he was left wringing his hand after a throwdown reared awkwardly and struck him on the right forearm.
A gloomy weather forecast for the week is a worry for the Test. Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara will bid adieu to international cricket in this series.