India vs Sri Lanka: Virat Kohli’s men eye historic away series clean sweep
Virat Kohli-led India will look to complete a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka when the two teams face off in the final Test of the series at Pallekele.india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 11, 2017 22:40 IST
With history beckoning, India will be going all out in the final Test in a bid for a clean sweep of the three-Test series against Sri Lanka. This would also be their first whitewash against a major team in overseas conditions.
If the skies remain clear, India are firm favourites to complete the rout at the Pallekele International Stadium, starting from Saturday.
If the home team thought a change of place and atmosphere --- moving from the coastal region to the hilly terrain of Kandy would bring a change in fortune, it doesn’t seem the cricket gods are smiling on Sri Lanka.
Down in the dumps after morale-shattering defeats, their plans to gain some momentum by working things out in the nets were washed away by heavy downpour for the last two days.
With their main pacer, Nuwan Pradeep, and spinner, Rangana Herath, unavailable, Sri Lanka will start the third Test on the back-foot.
It has put the home team in a fix over the type of wicket to go with. Up against an opponent with superior arsenal in every department, their best chance is to get a face-saving draw. But given the Pallekele turf’s assistance to bowlers, Sri Lanka’s main challenge on the eve of the game seemed to be getting grass off the playing surface.
Continuous rain since Thursday afternoon denied them the opportunity to work on the surface, which had a fair share of grass. The sun came out at noon, leaving the ground-staff less than 24 hours for patch-up work, with chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya overseeing the operation.
But despite heavy work, the wicket still retains its green colour.
Desperate to avoid a whitewash, Sri Lanka would be hoping for a change in luck at toss, get to bat first and put runs on the board. In the first two Tests, apart from facing a superior opponent, they had to battle the scoreboard pressure with India posting 600-plus scores after batting first.
BENCH STRENGTH EXPOSED
Hit by injuries, Sri Lanka’s lack of bench strength lays exposed and they will put out one of their most inexperienced attacks in the absence of Herath and Pradeep.
Even though Ravindra Jadeja holds the No 1 spot in ICC rankings, his absence should hardly affect India’s spin strength as Ravichandran Ashwin remains the spearhead, which means psychologically India will still carry the edge.
Given the conditions, it remains to be seen if India opt for an extra pacer. If they stick to the two-spinner, three-pacer combination then it will open the door for Kuldeep Yadav to play his first overseas Test. The chinaman bowler will be full of confidence after his sterling show in his debut Test against Australia.
The skillful Bhuvneshwar Kumar could get a look-in as the third pacer depending on the grass cover on the surface.
The odds are stacked against Sri Lanka and a whitewash could have serious consequences, as it could erode interest in the game and affect the confidence in the current regime.
Only once has the home team faced similar humiliation. The Shane Warne-inspired Australia completed a 3-0 clean sweep in 2003-04.
India skipper Virat Kohli will be looking beyond this Test. He knows the true test will come in the next two years, with visits to South Africa, Australia and England lined up. The green turf and seaming conditions will be a good indicator of what lies ahead for his team.