Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team seek to conquer Sri Lanka at home

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team will look to continue their dream run against Sri Lanka when the two sides clash in a three-Test series, starting at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata from Thursday.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 15, 2017 22:18 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
India vs Sri Lanka,Virat Kohli,Dinesh Chandimal
Virat Kohli chats with Ravi Shastri during a training session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata ahead of the first cricket Test between India and Sri Lanka. (PTI)

It could be hard talking about cricket during unseasonal November rain especially if experience and ability are parameters to evaluate India and Sri Lanka. (India vs Sri Lanka Full Coverage)

The home team is eyeing its ninth consecutive Test series victory while Sri Lanka go into the first Test at Eden Gardens beginning on Thursday looking for a maiden win against India.

But team sport has enough examples of underdogs winning the day --- Iraq trumping the best in the 2007 Asian Cup football tournament, Denmark doing that in Europe in 1992 and the USA’s ice hockey team denying Soviet Union the men’s Olympic goal in 1980.

(Read | India vs Sri Lanka: Five key player battles to watch out for)

Who’s to say that Dinesh Chandimal’s Sri Lanka aren’t capable of something similar? “We are more confident than the last series after winning against Pakistan,” was the Sri Lanka skipper’s measured response at Eden Gardens.

On a Wednesday so wet that it forced the teams to stay indoors, respect for India was the leitmotif of Chandimal’s interaction with the media.

But he also said lessons from the home series loss, such as the need to play five bowlers and keep up energy levels while fielding, have been well learnt as was evident from the away win against Pakistan. Yes, all-rounder Angelo Mathews will play only as a batsman but he will be promoted to No. 4, he said.

(Read | India vs Sri Lanka: What Dinesh Chandimal & Co need to break losing curse)

Interest in these Tests may be tepid but for skipper Virat Kohli and his band that doesn’t matter. “Every series is huge,” he said, before sounding like gridiron football coaches Henry Russell and Vince Lombardi who had famously spoken on winning being the only thing that matters.

“Winning is the most important thing. We are not differentiating in terms of where we are playing, whom we are playing... We just want to play good cricket as team. If you play good cricket, results take care of each other anywhere in the world,” said Kohli.

(Read | Virat Kohli says ‘will ask for leave if needed’ ahead of India vs Sri Lanka Tests)

Before India embark on the tour of South Africa, this series could be a pit-stop to fine-tune team parts. There is the three-way battle between Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul for the two opening batsmen’s slots.

There could also be the search for a bowling or middle-order batting talent that could be the key to winning abroad. Such as Kuldeep Yadav using this opportunity to hone his accuracy, said former India opener Arun Lal. “If he does well against Sri Lanka, who read and play spin well, it could help him,” he said.

There will also be the situation of tackling Rangana Herath, albeit on a wicket that could aid pacers. Pushing 40, the left-arm spinner can bowl long spells and doesn’t shy from attacking the stumps.

Having shown they can do all that away from home, India will need to do that again. “It is not like if we lose the series and you guys are going to say nothing to us,” said Kohli.

So, Kohli said the team must “be at absolute top intensity all the time because we want to win anywhere in the world.”

It seems India keen that Sri Lanka put up a fight. Because that would give them an opportunity to “embrace playing in difficult conditions.” Trying to win a Test despite losing playing time could be one.

First Published: Nov 15, 2017 21:23 IST