India look to sign off on a high

India look to sign off on a high

The long home season for India is nearing an end. The hosts have invariably proved themselves to be a force on home soil as they gear up for a tougher challenge abroad. In the three Tests against the hapless Sri Lanka, they have already taken a 1-0 lead. The third and last one, at the Feroz Shah Kotla from Saturday, too holds the promise of a predictable end.

So thorough has been the Indian demolition of Sri Lanka that the talk around the series focused more on the upcoming tour of South Africa. The bouncy pitch under overcast conditions at Kolkata Test, the only time when the Indian top-order appeared vulnerable, was viewed as India's preparation for the South African tour. The second Test at Nagpur, on a flat deck, saw India inflict an innings defeat on Sri Lanka. With Delhi as the last junction of the Test series, the talk is again around the pitch.

The grass on the Kotla surface has piqued interest but it is also a fact that the surface, held together by black soil, traditionally offers a low bounce. After initial advantage of the new ball and wintry conditions, it will not be a surprise if it stays true to its original nature.

India, meanwhile, will be looking to wrap up the season in style. They have barely put a foot wrong against a side which has a proud past but a rickety present. For India, Shikhar Dhawan is back in the squad to ensure all three openers -- Murali Vijay and K L Rahul being the other two -- are available for selection. With in-form Virat Kohli, the top-order for India is more or less decided.

Ravichandran Ashwin, fresh from the high of 300 Test wickets, will be hoping to swell his figures at Kotla, a haven for slow bowlers and spinners. The pace-battery has also done a good job with Ishant Sharma making an impressive return at Nagpur. The lanky bowler will be spurred to put an inspiring show at his home ground. Mohammad Shami, who sat out the second Test, bowled at the nets, and could get a look in ahead of Umesh Yadav.

If India are in midst of their best season, Sri Lanka are experiencing their worst. Their worries have only compounded by injury to veteran spinner Rangana Herath. Angelo Mathews, returning from an injury lay-off, too has struggled. Led by a young captain Dinesh Chandimal, the Sri Lankan batting has repeatedly collapsed. The bowling too has lacked sharpness with India comfortably piling runs against them. In the two Tests, there have been centuries by Kohli (104 n.o. Kolkata; 213, Nagpur), Cheteshwar Pujara (143, Nagpur), Vijay (128, Nagpur), and Rohit Sharma (102 n.o, Nagpur).

In Delhi, India, the No 1 Test side, would be eager to sign off a successful year by equaling Australia's record of nine consecutive series victories. The venue, which has witnessed several historic cricketing feats, might just find another one added to its enduring legacy.

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