After a lay-off of 40 days, Mahendra Singh Dhoni returns to action as India skipper on Friday when the Indians take on a strong Sri Lanka XI in a practice match at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium ahead of the one-day series.
They can breathe easy for the moment —no Ajantha Mendis in the opposition — but almost all, led by Chamara Kapugedara, have had a taste of international cricket.
The Indians will not have too much trouble changing gears from the Test to the ODIs mode for this team is almost completely different from that which played in the Tests.
While those who have put in the hard yards in the 1-2 loss could be rested — the names of Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag are being bandied about — the match provides an opportunity for some of the others to stake a claim.
Prime among these is Virat Kohli, who will be competing with S. Badrinath. For some time now people who have watched Kohli's climb up the cricketing ladder in Delhi have predicted he will achieve big things. When the Delhi IPL team did not pick up Kohli, it came as a bit of surprise, but the India under-19 captain was snapped up by Bangalore.
While he showed flashes of the prodigious talent that has won rave reviews from teammates at various levels, he failed to come good in the Twenty20 format. Recent success in Australia, in front of chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar, won him a place in the ODI squad.
Kohli had his first practice session as an India cricketer at the Nondescripts Cricket Club and eased into the groove with Delhi mates Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for company. “They are very happy. I have played with them for the Delhi team. They are very helpful, it's great fun to be with them in the Indian team,” said Kohli.
Inevitably, he was asked about the Mendis sensation and Kohli could only reply, "He is a different bowler, he is a very good bowler. I have seen videos of his bowling, I have been asking my teammates as well who have played him," he said.
"When you are playing in a match, it is all about my mental set-up, about how I face him. But obviously, I am getting a lot of help from my teammates as well. I will try to do well if I get a chance to play."
The Indians had a comprehensive pre-match session with fitness training, fielding drills and a net session completing their routine. The Sri Lankans, in the meantime, went about their preparation at the nearby Sinhalese Sports Club ground.
India : Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, S Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Parthiv Patel.
Sri Lanka XI: Chamara Kapugedara (capt), Upul Tharanga, Mahela Udawatte, Malinda Warnapura, Jehan Mubarak, Chamara Silva, Kaushal Silva, Malinga Bandara, Kaushalya Weeraratne, Dilhara Fernando, Thilina Thushara, Chanaka Welagedara.