Former captain Rahul Dravid said India need to be at their best to beat Sri Lanka in home conditions in the three-Test series starting on Wednesday.
“They have the right balance in these conditions. They are always a big threat at home. Muttiah Muralitharan is a big impact and Chaminda Vaas is a clever bowler in these conditions,” Dravid said on Monday.
“They have a good batting line-up that adapts well in these conditions. They can bat for long periods. But we have come here with a good team as well. If we play to our potential, I think it will be a good Test series.”
Dravid, one of the seven batsmen to have completed 10,000 Test runs, was part of the Indian side that lost a three-match series 2-1 on their last Test tour of Sri Lanka in 2001.
Sri Lanka have also beaten South Africa, England, the West Indies and Bangladesh at home in the past four years, with off-spinner Muralitharan and left-arm seamer Vaas playing major roles.
They have lost just one of their 16 home Tests since August 2004, the lone defeat coming against Pakistan at Kandy two years ago.
Muralitharan is the world’s leading wicket-taker with 735 scalps in 120 Tests, while Vaas has grabbed 343 wickets in 104 matches.
The hosts also have a surprise weapon in Ajantha Mendis, who is likely to make his Test debut here after his match-winning performance in the Asia Cup final against India in Karachi early this month.
Mendis grabbed six wickets for 13 runs with clever variations to power his team to a 100-run victory.
But Dravid said his side was not concentrating on Mendis alone.
“Sure, he is going to be one of their four or five bowlers, but you cannot just focus on Mendis. They have got a couple of other guys (Muralitharan and Vaas) who have got 1000 wickets between them,” he said.
“It will be a big mistake to focus just on Mendis. We will just play it as we see it. We have come against a lot of bowlers in our times and we have succeeded against them.”
Dravid was one of the five veterans who was not part of the Asia Cup one-day side, others being Test skipper Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
Tendulkar is just 172 short of breaking Brian Lara’s world mark of 11,953 Test runs, but Dravid said the team was focused more on winning the series than the record.
“There has been no talk in the dressing room of either the record or anything like that.
“We are focused on winning the series and so is Sachin,” said Dravid, who quit captaincy last year.
“I hope he (Tendulkar) achieves the landmark here. We are hoping it is in the first innings of the first Test on the first day itself, so we can have a big celebration.
“It would really help the team and him as well. It’s obviously a great achievement for him and the team when he eventually gets there.”
Dravid said he was looking forward to playing his first Test after seven years in Sri Lanka.
“We have not played (a Test) here since 2001. It is nice to be back. I am looking forward to playing a Test series in Sri Lanka. The wicket here is very good,” said Dravid.
“I enjoy batting here. There is something in it for the bowlers and stroke-players. If you get set you can play your shots and there is good value for your strokes. I have done quite well here in Tests and one-dayers.”
New Delhi: Unlocking the Mendis code will not be difficult for the Indian batsmen if they concentrate on his wrist movement, feels GR Viswanath.
Having excelled against Australian John Gleeson, another mystery spinner who flummoxed batsmen with his odd grip in his 1969-70 debut series where he came up with a century in his maiden appearance, Viswanath said taking on Mendis won’t be difficult once the Indian batsmen carefully observe his wrist movement.
“You’ve got to pick him (Mendis) up at the time of delivery. Our batsmen need to observe Mendis’s wrist and finger movements at the time of delivery...Then he’ll become easier to negotiate,” the 59-year-old said on the sidelines of a Delhi District Cricket Association function on Sunday night.