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Indian cricket team pacers look to sharpen skills vs hapless Sri Lanka

After his brilliant spells on comeback in Nagpur Test, Ishant Sharma has a great opportunity to reproduce that form at his home ground -- the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium -- where the Indian cricket team takes on Sri Lanka in the final Test of the three-match series, starting December 2.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 30, 2017 22:01 IST
N. Ananthanarayanan
N. Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,Indian Cricket Team,Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma will look to continue his good form when the Indian cricket team takes on Sri Lanka in the third and the final Test of the series, starting December 2. (BCCI )

On Wednesday, darkness had descended at Ferozeshah Kotla before Virat Kohli, delayed by rush hour traffic, arrived for a felicitation function of the Delhi association. Speaking with back to his home ground, the Indian cricket captain didn’t seem too concerned about the pitch. (INDIA vs SRI LANKA FULL COVERAGE)

Instructions had been clear on the kind of surface India want for the third and final Test against a reeling Sri Lanka, starting on Saturday.

Kohli, whose team is up 1-0 and can claim the series, would have been assured had he reached earlier in the evening. Daljit Singh, head of the BCCI pitches and ground committee, was painstakingly testing the bounce with a cricket ball. The pitch was green, far removed from the barren tracks that usually greet international teams. The ball didn’t bounce above knee level on Wednesday, but watering and rolling should help, and the winter should aid swing.

(Read | Pressure on shaky Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka prepare to fight in Kotla)

SENIOR PRO

Preparations on the go for India’s South Africa tour -- first Test starts on January 5 – have been smooth, but Kohli would want the final dress rehearsal to provide assurance.

After his brilliant spells on comeback in the Nagpur Test, where his 5/80 paved the way for victory by a record margin, Ishant Sharma in particular has a great opportunity to reproduce that form.

(Read | Why politicise cricket by not playing Pakistan, asks Bishan Singh Bedi)

Seniormost in the squad, who will play his 79th Test, Ishant has for various reasons not found the consistency to match memorable spells strewn across his decade-long career.

On Wednesday, the 29-year-old Delhi Ranji skipper, with wife Pratima Singh, stood in the background as a Hall of Fame was being opened in the Kotla pavilion. He had to be goaded to go to the front.

Ishant though will be expected to take centre stage in the Test. And despite a good domestic season, he would know the challenge a Kotla pitch can throw up, having failed to bowl out Assam in a Ranji game to settle for a draw.

(Read | No time for Sri Lanka to dwell on the past: Thisara Perera)

MAKING SHORT WORK

If Sri Lanka feel they are being used as punching bag by India, they have themselves to blame, especially their batsmen. Since India rallied to a series win in the final Test in Colombo in 2015, they have not lasted five days in the next five matches. Only the Kolkata match went the distance due to rain curtailing play.

The focus in South Africa will be on India’s rise as a pace power. It was the pacers who got the job done the only two occasions India won a Test in South Africa, in 2006 and 2010.

Ishant’s good run will help settle the pace department. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, now enjoying a break, was devastating in Kolkata while Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have bowled with pace and discipline in the last two years.

The pacers have for once outshone spinners in a home series, taking 24 wickets to 13 by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 21:06 IST