India vs Sri Lanka: Gap in batsmen’s class will be hard to bridge
The Sri Lankan batsmen’s performances in their recent Test matches against Indian cricket have not been great. The two teams will play a three-Test series starting on November 16 .Updated: Nov 14, 2017 10:00 IST
Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka’s senior-most batsman on this tour of India, was still a year away from Test debut when the island nation got the last bilateral series win in 2008. In the four series that followed, three ended in losses for India’s neighbours while one was tied.
Mathews, part of those four series, would again be in focus as the two teams clash in a three-Test contest starting in Kolkata on November 16. Besides being the most experienced member, with 12 Tests against India, he is also the only one in his team to score more than one ton against India.
Compare this with India -- four batsmen in the current squad have at least two tons against Sri Lanka. The gap in class is apparent, making the Virat Kohli-led world No 1 side strong favourites to notch yet another convincing win against Sri Lanka.
Permutation and combination
The Dinesh Chandimal-led side is yet to find the right balance since the retirements of seniors Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Constant change in combinations hasn’t helped either.
Kusal Mendis, one of Sri Lanka’s top-scorers in the home series against India in July-August, has not been picked for the upcoming tour.
Chandimal, who was expected to play an influential role post the departure of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, has been inconsistent with injury issues adding to his problems. In the last series against India, he could only score 96 runs in two matches. Apart from Mathews, returning from a calf injury and only expected to bat in the series, and opener Dimuth Karunaratne, Chandimal is the only one in the current side who has scored a century against India.
Sri Lanka can take heart from the fact that both Chandimal and Karunaratne dazzled with a century each in their recent 2-0 series win over Pakistan in the UAE.
However, outsmarting spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja at their home, would be a different job altogether. Both will be back in the Indian team after two months, having been replaced in the limited-overs side by Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The strong competition from the younger lot may just spur them to attack with zeal against Sri Lanka. Ashwin is also eight short of becoming the fifth Indian bowler to complete 300 Test wickets.
With world No 1 India not having lost a home Test series since 2012-13, a lot would depend on Mathews, Mendis and Karunaratne to give a tough fight to the hosts.
Indian batsmen on song
For the Indian batsmen, however, carrying their good form against Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to be a big concern.
During the 3-0 away win in Sri Lanka in July-August, five batsmen - Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Hardik Pandya - reached the triple figure mark at least once. Dhawan and Pujara scored two tons each.
With an opportunity to boost their ICC ranking points and end the year as world No 1, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that India are eager to pounce on their struggling rivals.
And the contrast in batting class might just make the job easier for Kohli and Co.
First Published: Nov 13, 2017 22:54 IST