Ravichandran Ashwin, Jadeja’s return spices up lopsided India vs Sri Lanka contest
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be making a return to the Indian cricket team after quite some time in the upcoming three-Test series against Sri Lanka, starting on Thursday.cricket Updated: Nov 15, 2017 10:22 IST
India’s last home Test series, against Australia in February-March, saw R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja rise to joint top on the ICC bowlers’ rankings. However, things changed in the next seven months.
The success of younger spinners in ODIs and T20s meant Ashwin, Jadeja were absent from the playing XI for a long time. The three-Test series against Sri Lanka, starting on Thursday in Kolkata, shall see their return after three months.
It is the vulnerability Ashwin and Jadeja are facing that will make India’s home series of Sri Lanka, against whom they shared 30 wickets in the last bilateral series, a closely-watched contest.
The duo’s experience along with the presence of seamers like Bhuvenshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma has put Virat Kohli’s side in a strong position against their inexperienced rivals.
Consider this, apart from Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera, no Sri Lankan bowler in the current squad has played more than one Test against India (Angelo Mathews shall not be bowling due to injury). Add to this, their premier spinner Herath’s poorest strike-rate among all teams is against India – 45.96.
The challenge for Ashwin and Jadeja becomes tougher with reports that the Eden Gardens pitch, where the first Test will be played, will assist pacers.
Whether the decision to keep the grass was taken keeping in mind India’s South Africa tour early next year will be known later, but the conditions may prompt India to go with three pacers as all-rounder Hardik Pandya is not playing the series.
For Ashwin and Jadeja, it would mean putting in extra effort as they would want to announce their return to the national fold with a bang. Their Ranji Trophy performances have not been too impressive either with Ashwin and Jadeja picking 11 and 10 wickets for Tamil Nadu and Saurashtra, respectively, in the three matches they played.
As the pair gears up for the fresh challenge, the seamers would have their job to do. For Bhuvneshwar, Umesh, Shami and Ishant, it will be an opportunity to make India’s road smoother if they can get the Sri Lankan top order out early.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal are two of their most experienced batsmen and tackling them would be the key to India living up to their ‘favourites’ tag in this series.
For Sri Lanka, youngsters like Vishwa Fernando, Dasun Shanaka and Lahiru Gamage will be manning the pace department. While Chinaman Lakshan Sandakan and Suranga Lakmal will be two other spin options to support Herath.
Ironically, Sri Lanka’s senior-most spinner has his own demons to slay like his Indian counterparts. For Herath, who became the first left-arm spinner to take 400 wickets in October, it will be a question of raising his team’s chances against a side that has played him well throughout.
For Ashwin and Jadeja, their top billing in Tests remains intact, but both would have one thing on their mind --- that the team management and selectors are not averse to experiments now with an eye on the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
A good performance in the last home series of 2017 may boost their confidence ahead of 2018, when India will mostly be touring abroad.