India vs Sri Lanka: IND adopt safety first tactics with openers, SL aim surprise
India, led by Virat Kohli, shall field Shikhar Dhawan-Abhinav Mukund as openers and will not ask Rohit Sharma to begin the innings in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle. The hosts are a team in transition and will hope to spring a surpriseindia vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 25, 2017 18:46 IST
On paper, it looks a mismatch -- India, the No 1 ranked side in the world, up against a team caught in transition, Sri Lanka, struggling even against bottom-placed sides, that too at home. But if there is one venue in Sri Lanka that can lift their players’ spirits and inspire them to produce extraordinary efforts, dig deep into their reserves, it is the Galle International Stadium.
Be it the majestic wall of the Galle Fort that provides the background, the waves of the Indian Ocean lapping the open parts beyond the ground, there is something about playing here that has lifted the home team to play their best cricket.
As a dominant Indian team comes a calling, Sri Lanka will be banking on their excellent record at Galle. Having won 17 of their 29 matches, it has come to be known as their bastion.
India anyway won’t take chances and will field regular openers Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund in the absence of KL Rahul, who is down with fever. Skipper Virat Kohli said the team was unlikely to ask Rohit Sharma to open.
“We only have two openers (fit to play),” Kohli told the pre-match media conference. “We don’t see that kind of experiment happening here. This scenario gives the other players (a chance) to show what they are capable of and have a solid performance and stay with the team for a longer time,” he said. All-rounder Hardik Pandya is also being considered.
In their last three meetings, India have lost two and won one, while overall it is 3-1 for the home team. And it seems it is by design they schedule the series opener here because all three wins have been in the first game of the series. In 2008, the Galle game came in the middle of the series and India surprised the hosts.
WICKET WITH HARD BASE
Generally, the surface is known to aid spin. This time, the curator has left a fair grass covering and a hard base means extra assistance for pacers before the spinners come into play.
Like most games here, the contests between India and Sri Lanka too have been thrilling. It’s the nature of the wicket on which only the bold thrive. It is not a surface where you look to play the waiting game; here one needs to be adventurous, take one’s chances because one is never in. But at the same time, for stroke-makers, there is good value.
Any ball will have your name written on it and it’s about putting runs on the board while you are in the middle than looking to survive.
You don’t have to look any further than the last Test India played here in 2015. India needed just 176 to win with lot of time in hand, but were dismissed for 112 in 49.5 overs. Till then, they had dominated almost every sessions in the game and Sri Lanka needed Dinesh Chandimal’s stunning 162 not out to set even that target.
India’s bowling has been a revelation in recent years. While earlier its strength lay in the spinners in its ranks, now it also has a varied and highly effective pace attack.
It has left the team management with a tricky call to make on the combination. Usually, India prefers a three-man pace and two-man spin attack. Here, they may be tempted to reverse the combination.
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja (spin) and Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar pick themselves on form and performances. It leaves Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav to fight for the fifth bowler’s spot.
CHANGE IN TOP-ORDER
India’s jinx with the opening position continues. For the series opener, they will be without their first-choice pair of Murali Vijay (injured) and KL Rahul (fever). It leaves Shikhar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund and Rohit Sharma with a chance to make the XI.
On the eve of the match, captain Virat Kohli said they would go in with their regular opening combination, which means Dhawan will play with fellow left-hander Mukund. The Indian skipper also revealed they are considering blooding all-rounder Hardik Pandya as it will give them an extra bowling option while bolstering their batting.
Given the strength of their batting, India should be confident of coping with the last-minute loss of Rahul.
India, however, will go into the match as favourites with confidence sky-high after an almost flawless display in the home season.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka will be shaken after a scare against Zimbabwe. They did well to bat out of their skins to pull of their highest-ever chase in the one-off Test, but the feeling at the end of the game was more relief than joy.
The home team supporters will take some heart from the form its captain, Rangana Herath. The left-arm spinner is 39, but has only got better with age. Boasting a tremendous record at Galle, he had won them the last Test here against India with a seven-wicket haul in the second innings. Herath steps in to lead after Chandimal was ruled out due to pneumonia.
But there is no doubt about one thing -- Sri Lanka will have to regroup and rethink its make-up and strategy if they are to run India close in this game and the series.