India vs Sri Lanka: Hosts look to maintain stranglehold over Islanders as rain threat looms

Dominant India begin their journey to record their 9th straight Test series win, while Sri Lanka search for first Test win on Indian soil as Eden Gardens gears for 1st test

Vaibhav Shah, November 15, 2017

India wore down the Lanka Lions in their own den by attrition across three formats to hand them a nine to zero humbling three months ago.

World no.1 India look to maintain their dominance as Chandimal and Co face tall order. AFP

World No 1 India look to maintain their dominance as Chandimal and Co face tall order. AFP

A little recap of that series before we talk about yet another tussle between the two teams: Only 11 out of  15 days of Test cricket possible were utilised and India weren't required to bat for the second time in any of the three Tests.

With the two boards seem to fancy the idea of pitting the two sides in what is deemed as a lopsided contest by many, we are at it again.

The chasm between the two teams is so wide that no bridge in myth or reality would help close down the gap.

Sporting action in Kolkata shifts from the radiant Salt Lake stadium to the alluring Eden Gardens as the venue readies itself for the first of the three Tests.

Familiar Foes

Despite having met Sri Lanka as regularly as 91 times in last decade across all formats, the Islanders haven't toured India for a Test series since 2009. Rangana Hearth and Angelo Mathews are the only two who have played the longest format on Indian shores. The relatively inexperienced Sri Lankan side have a gargantuan task ahead of them, which none of their predecessors were able to do – beat India in their own backyard. In 17 Tests so far, India have won 10 while seven encounters have ended in a draw.

Happy Headaches

Overwhelming favourites, India, have strange conundrum of having too many players in form, something which Virat Kohli prefers and likes to call 'happy headaches'. Two opening slots up for grabs and there are three quality players fighting for it – Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. All three worthy of a place for one reason or other. In Tests, Vijay, is one of the most skillful operators at the top of the order and had he not suffered from a wrist injury before the Sri Lankan tour, he could've improved his numbers, while Rahul passes on the grounds of consistency he has shown in the longer formats. Dhawan made the most of the opportunity provided to him, since then he hasn't looked back and currently is in sublime form too.

If speculations around the team are to be believed than the left-handed Dhawan is likely to partner Rahul in the first Test.

Bowling combo and the return of Spin twins

Ever since the pitch has been relaid at the Eden Gardens, the green top wicket has been conducive to fast bowling. India, carrying four pacers in the squad, might be tempted to play three and an extra batsman in Rohit Sharma leading to axing one of either Ravindra Jadeja or Ravichandran Ashwin from the XI.  However, conventional wisdom suggests both the spinners will be included in the XI alongside two pacers – Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav.

***

"We have to be patient and concentrate harder with our batting and bowling. If we can do that, I am sure we will do well as a team and comeback stronger for the Pakistan series." These were the parting words of Sri Lankan Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal after receiving a 3-0 series whitewash against India.

Captain Chandimal's words were put to effect when Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan in their adopted home of UAE. Albeit, Pakistan too is transiting post the Misbah Ul Haq and Younus Khan era. Having said that an away Test series win was probably the best way forward for the Lankans.

Sri Lankan coach, Nic Pothas, said there is an internal change within the side which looks more settled now. Considering 2017 is one of Sri Lanka's worst years in their cricketing history, the team members will have to take heart out of the Pakistan series win and put their best foot forward in India.

Angelo Mathews 2.0

After suffering through string of injuries in the previous year put too much pressure on the 30-year old that eventually stepped down from captaincy. Not completely fit Mathews was just filling up the numbers in the earlier Test series against India, but having opting out from the tour against Pakistan, the 69-Test veteran should be rejuvenated for the upcoming series.

Stick together, team

Unlike the hosts, Sri Lanka cannot rely on individual strength to help them win a game or even put up a fight. Although the likes Hearth, Mathews and Chandimal do posses match-winning abilities, they would need support from the team to challenge the unstoppable Indian side. Dimuth Karunaratne has been in prime form and he along with Kusal Mendis were the only two batsmen who provided some substance when the Islanders hosted India. With Mendis not getting selected, the onus is on Lahiru Thirimanne to step up for his team. Wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella too can make an impact if the top order set the stage for the attacking batsmen.

Lankan bowlers look a little weak compared to their batting unit, primarily due to Hearth's struggle against the might of the Indian batsmen, who have had the better of the left-arm off-spinner. Though, the wily old spinner is in good form grabbing 16 wickets at just over 17 runs apiece in the two-Test series UAE. While second in command, Dilruwan Perera, also had a terrific series against Pakistan taking 12 wickets at an average of 25.66 that included a five-for. Among pacers, Suranga Lakmal will be expected to trouble Indian batsmen.

There are couple of rookie players who might come up good if given a chance. Roshen Silva has 103 first class experience under his belt while Lahiru Gamage has taken over 223 first class wickets.

***

The low pressure in Bay of Bengal resulted in inclement rain in the capital city of West Bengal. The incessant downpour since early morning came to brief pause in the evening. But the forecast for the following two days is grim, with showers expected on Friday and thunderstorms predicted on Saturday. Even if it there is no rain overnight, there is a high chance the outfield is expected to be wet and the start of play could be delayed.

Understandably, Eden Gardens was under covers throughout the day with both the teams missing their training sessions.

India squad: Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Lokesh Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav

Sri Lanka squad: Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dilruwan Perera, Angelo Mathews, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Dasun Shanaka, Roshen Silva

Updated Date: Nov 15, 2017

T20 LEAGUE POINTS TABLE

Pos. Team P W L D Pts.
1
Punjab
6 5 1 0 10
2
Chennai
5 4 1 0 8
3
Kolkata
6 3 3 0 6
4
Hyderabad
5 3 2 0 6
5
Rajasthan
6 3 3 0 6
6
Bangalore
5 2 3 0 4
7
Mumbai
5 1 4 0 2
8
Delhi
6 1 5 0 2



Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5313 121
2 South Africa 5154 117
3 New Zealand 3886 102
4 Australia 4599 102
5 England 5029 97
6 Sri Lanka 4374 95
Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 7594 122
2 South Africa 6911 117
3 England 7496 117
4 New Zealand 7081 114
5 Australia 6376 112
6 Pakistan 4877 96
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 3763 130
2 Australia 2513 126
3 India 4341 124
4 New Zealand 3013 116
5 England 2402 114
6 South Africa 2551 111

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