Sri Lanka have not lost a Test series at home since they lost 1-2 to India in 2015. Sri Lanka are strong at home and they proved that by beating Australia comprehensively in 2016. However, they struggled against a resurgent Zimbabwe in the one-off Test played at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo earlier this month.
Rangana Herath picked up 11 wickets out of the 20 Zimbabwe wickets to fall in that Test and the Sri Lankans won the match in the end, but there were ample reasons for them to be worried about their performance. Their over-dependence on Herath can hurt them as his bowling average of 41.62 against India is his worst against any country in Tests.
Herath has taken 34.73 percent of Sri Lanka’s wickets in Tests since 2011 which is a record among all bowlers who have taken at least 75 wickets during this period. Since 2011, Herath has taken 22 five-wicket hauls at home while all other Sri Lankan bowlers have taken only five five-wicket hauls together. Herath was also the joint highest wicket-taker in the 2015 Test series against India. The numbers show that he will be a threat for Virat Kohli and Co, but his record against India over the years has been mediocre.
He will lead his country in the first Test starting from 26 July in the absence of a regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal who is out with pneumonia. Angelo Mathews, on the other hand, would like to show that he is a better batsman than what his Test average since 2015 suggests. His average of 35.02 during this period is less than his career batting average of 45.81 in the five-day version of the game.
India’s win-loss ratio of 0.857 against Sri Lanka is their best abroad with a cut-off of 10 Tests. Sri Lanka have not won a Test against India in the latter's backyard yet, but they have won seven out of 21 Tests against India on their own soil. India began their dream run in Tests under Kohli by winning the Test series against Sri Lanka two years ago. They are fresh from an extremely successful home season and this is an opportunity for them to start well overseas too before they travel to South Africa, Australia and England in near future.
India have lost only one Test series out of the last five against Sri Lanka. They have won three, lost one and drawn one.
India have lost only one Test out of their last 13, but had played all those at home while Sri Lanka’s win percentage is 60 in their last 10 Tests. So India cannot take Sri Lanka lightly.
Recent form (last 10 Tests, starting from the most recent).
Sri Lanka: W, L, W, L, L, L, W, W, W, W
India: W, D, W, L, W, W, W, W, W, D
It’s difficult for many to comprehend the fact that India have not won the first Test of a series in Sri Lanka yet. In 2015, India came from behind to win the series after losing the first Test at Galle.
Sri Lanka have included four pacers in their squad for the first Test – Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando and Nuwan Pradeep. This indicates that they may go with three pacers and would have prepared a pitch which assists pacers too, along with the spinners, because India have a spin trio which can tie the Sri Lankan batsmen in knots on any given day.
If we look at the venue for the first Test, Galle, there has not been much difference in the strike rates of pacers and spinners in the last 10 years.
The upcoming series will provide opportunities to many young players from both sides to prove their worth, but this series can be touted as Herath vs India. The onus will be on other Sri Lankan players to prove it wrong. The first Test will test the tranquility of Herath as a captain, but he is someone who can lead from the front and that can aid other Sri Lankan players to perform to their potential against the number one Test side in the world.
Here are some individual records in Sri Lanka versus India Tests held in Sri Lanka:
For Sri Lanka: 1,194 runs by Mahela Jayawardene from 12 Tests.
For India: 1,155 runs by Sachin Tendulkar from 12 Tests.
For Sri Lanka: 65 wickets by Muttiah Muralitharan from 11 Tests.
For India: 30 wickets by Anil Kumble from nine Tests.
For Sri Lanka: 22 by dismissals by Amal Silva from three Tests.
For India: 11 dismissals by Sadanand Viswanath from three Tests.
For Sri Lanka: 20 catches by Mahela Jayawardene from 12 Tests.
For India: 12 catches by Mohammad Azharuddin from nine Tests.
For Sri Lanka: 952/6 (d) at Colombo (RPS) in 1997.
For India: 707 at Colombo (SSC) in 2010.
For Sri Lanka: 134 at Colombo (PSS) in 2015.
For India: 112 at Galle in 2015.
Highest individual score:
For Sri Lanka: 340 by Sanath Jayasuriya at Colombo (RPS) in 1997.
For India: 203 by Sachin Tendulkar at Colombo (SSC) in 2010.
Best bowling figures in an innings:
For Sri Lanka: 8/87 by Muttiah Muralitharan at Colombo (SSC) in 2001.
For India: 6/46 by Ravichandran Ashwin at Galle in 2015.
Best bowling figures in a match:
For Sri Lanka: 11/110 by Muttiah Muralitharan at Colombo (SSC) in 2008.
For India: 10/153 by Harbhajan Singh at Galle in 2008.