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Kumble, Mahela ready for Test series

Indian skipper Anil Kumble said that his team has "the right combination" with experienced bowling and batting line-ups for the three-Test series begining from July 23.
By P. Karunakharan | IANS, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUL 15, 2008 10:46 PM IST

The Idea Cup three-Test series between Sri Lanka and India starting in Colombo from July 23 is evenly poised with the two captains on Tuesday describing it as "a tough challenge" that they were "prepared to face".

The Test series will be followed by a five-match one-day international (ODI) series starting on Aug 18 at the Dambulla international stadium.

India have won only one of the four Test series they have played in Sri Lanka since 1985. Their previous tour in 2001 ended in a 2-1 defeat.

India's telecom operator Idea and television sports channel Ten Sports are the main sponsors of the Test series whose trophy was ceremonially launched at a function at the Taj Samudra hotel here on Tuesday evening, a few hours after the arrival of the Indian team.

"It is certainly a challenging series, but nice to go back with the win. It needs a pretty good hard work and we are well prepared for it," Indian skipper Anil Kumble told reporters at the launch ceremony.

Stressing that the Indians would love to maintain the consistency they had shown in Tests in the past one year, Kumble said that his team had "the right combination" with experienced bowling and batting line-ups.

He said the comeback of experienced Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh was the key to the bowling department.

Commenting on Sri Lanka's new spin sensation, Ajantha Mendis, the Indian skipper said that his bowling was something his team was "keeping an eye on".

"Ajantha is a new revelation, but our middle order battling line-up has the experience with more than 30,000 runs behind them to face any bowling attack. It will be a challenge and I am sure that our batsmen will cope with his efforts," Kumble said.

Admitting that the team was missing batsman-wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the tour, he said it would be an ideal opportunity for Dinesh Karthik and Pathiv Patel "to establish themselves as Test players".

"I don't think it (the absence of Dhoni) will upset the team's balance," he said.

Asked to comment on the prospect of Indian cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar reaching here in Sri Lanka yet another historic landmark by breaking West Indies Brian Lara's record total runs in Tests, Kumble said it would be a double pleasure for both Sachin and the team to win the Test series with him breaking the Test record.

Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardena said a series against India had always been tough and his team was looking forward to meet that challenge.

Asked whether his squad would try its best to prevent Sachin from breaking Lara's record during the tour, Mahela said the team's "main focus is to play well and win the series".

"I will be happy if we give Sachin the record and win the series. It is great a milestone for Sachin, but our focus is on the series," Mahela said, hinting that the challenge was not Sachin alone but the entire Indian team.

Both captains welcomed the move to introduce the re-appealing mechanism against the field umpires' decision during this tour and hoped it would help minimise mistakes on the field.

The Indians are set to open their tour with a three-day practice match against the Sri Lanka Board XI from Friday at the NCC sports club ground.

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