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India vs Sri Lanka: Focus on KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan in warm-up match

The Indian cricket team is gear up for a three-Test series against Sri Lanka with a warm-up game against President’s XI in Colombo on Friday

cricket Updated: Jul 20, 2017 21:18 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,KL Rahul,Rohit Sharma
From left, Sri Lankan cricket interim head coach Nic Pothas, Sri Lankan cricket captain Upul Tharanga, Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri pose for a photograph.(AP)

India’s journey to becoming world No 1 in Tests over the last 18 months was filled with many positives. One area that doesn’t wear a settled look though is the opening combination.

Injury, and sometimes lack of form, led to frequent changes. It resulted in a musical chair of sorts where the onus of giving good starts fell on the shoulders of KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir and even Abhinav Mukund. It produced mixed results, with Rahul and Vijay being the standout performers.

As India gear up for a three-Test series against Sri Lanka with a warm-up game against President’s XI in Colombo on Friday, the focus will again be on the opening combination. The tour is just a precursor to a challenging period where India will visit South Africa, England and Australia in the next 18 months.

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In the squad for the Sri Lanka Test series, Rahul is coming back after recovering from a shoulder injury while Dhawan was called as replacement for Vijay who was ruled out due to a wrist injury.

Focus on Rahul, Dhawan, Rohit

Rohit’s hiatus too has been long. He returns to the Test squad after the series against New Zealand in October, 2016, having missed out on the series against England, Bangladesh and Australia during a very successful home season.

The Mumbai batsman underwent a thigh surgery after suffering an injury during the ODI series against New Zealand. Although Sharma has not played a first-class game since recovery, he had featured in the Indian Premier League before making his way back to the India team for the ICC Champions Trophy where he amassed more than 300 runs. The national selectors specifically rested Rohit for the West Indies tour in order to keep him fresh for the upcoming long season.

Indian cricketer Ishant Sharma (2R) and teammates arrive at a hotel in Colombo. (AFP)

Rahul, who had scored six fifties in seven innings in the Australia series, is also back in the squad after recuperating from a shoulder surgery that ruled him out of the IPL, the Champions Trophy and the West Indies series.

Both batsmen will looking to make the most of the practice game to stake their claim in the playing XI in the first Test against Sri Lanka, starting July 26 at Galle.

Like Sharma, Dhawan too last played a Test against New Zealand last year. He was dropped during the England series due to poor form and this tour of Sri Lanka should be another opportunity to make amends.

Fresh start for Shastri

The practice game at the BRC Grounds will also be Ravi Shastri’s first assignment with the India team following his much-publicised appointment as head coach for a two-year tenure earlier this month.

Since it is a two-day game, a team can test all players of its squad and India are expected to check all the weapons in their repertoire.

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The match will also provide Virat Kohli a chance to check his bowling attack, featuring pacer duo Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami who are also making a comeback.

All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was left out for the final two Tests against Australia due to a shoulder injury, is also back in the squad while pacer Umesh Yadav looks a certainty after a splendid home season.

Keeping in mind the slow and turning nature of Sri Lankan pitches, India have gone with the spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravinda Jadeja and chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 19:55 IST