Battle of teams in transition begins today

Cricket First Test : Weather threatens to play spoilsport

Battle of teams in transition begins today

 A rebuilding, but reasonably experienced enough, Indian team will be hoping to make a name for itself when it kicks-off its Sri Lankan sojourn with the opening Test here at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.

Paying under new skipper Virat Kohli for the first time on a full-fledged Test tour, the Indian side that impressed many with its attacking cricket against Australia last December-January will now be determined to finally make it count in terms of results.

Ever since Sachin Tendulkar decided to call off his spectacular 24-year career in November 2013, drawing an end to a team and an era that boasted of some of the modern day legends, the Indians have been in a transition phase. On the road since that emotional Test, they have travelled to South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia and Bangladesh, slowly getting the grip of the competitive world of Test cricket.

Results during this phase have not been particularly great, the Indians managing to win just one Test match out of the 14 they’ve played. While they could be forgiven for the poor returns considering most of them played Test matches in those countries for the first time, they would be itching to show the lessons learnt.

nka with Murali Vijay being the sole batsman, but there are reasons why the Indians can look forward to this short tour with plenty of optimism. Sub-continental conditions, a strong-looking batting line-up, a skipper who is supremely confident about himself and has been only preaching aggression, and an opposition smarting from a massive beating at the hands of Pakistan, the Indians certainly will be relishing the challenge at their hands.

With Murali Vijay ruled out, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul will open while Rohit Sharma — given plenty of confidence by the team management — Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will make up the middle order. Dhawan, Rahul, Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara all made runs in the three-day practice game against Sri Lanka Board President’s XI but Kohli and Rohit fell cheaply in both innings. However, both Kohli and Rohit have played enough cricket and things should be lot different come the main action.

Before boarding the plane to Colombo, Kohli stressed that he would be playing five bowlers and even said he’s not averse to the idea of playing three spinners if the pitch demanded so. Ishant Sharma, the leader of the pace attack, gave a good account of himself in the practice game, rifling out President’s XI with a hostile spell, and it remains to be seen whether Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav will partner him.
The Sri Lankans, who would be gunning to give Kumar Sangakkara a perfect send-off when the legend bids adieu to international cricket in the second Test at Colombo next week, are bang in the middle of a transition phase that has been anything but easy. They not only lost the just-concluded home Test series to Pakistan 1-2, they succumbed to morale shattering series defeats in the five-match ODI and two-match T20 series. Just how well the hosts can recover from those bruises remains to be seen.

Having said that, Sri Lanka, despite conditions being not much different to home, has not necessarily been a happy hunting ground for the Indians. Of the 18 matches they’ve played, they’ve managed to win just four but haven’t lost much either, suffering defeat six times and managing to draw eight. The last time they managed to script a series win here was way back in 1993 when Mohd Azharuddin’s side prevailed 1-0. More than two decades without a series win here just shows how tough the challenge has been for the Indians.

Weather has been extremely fickle to say the least. It’s hot and sweltering for one moment before rain comes pouring down the next. In fact heavy rain lashed the ground on Tuesday, with Sri Lankans getting a little practice time and the Indians forced to stay indoors. Just how one copes with the fluctuating conditions could play a decisive factor in the outcome of the match.

Squads (from): Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Rangana Herath, Tharindu Kaushal, Dilruwan Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Kaushal Silva (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandinmal (wk), Vishwa Fernando, Dimuth Karunaratne, Jehan Mubarak, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga.

India: Virat Kohli (capt), R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Chetshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Ishant Sharma.

Live on Sony Six, 10.00 am

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