India hope to make right start

Dhonis men take on Board XI; Munaf Patel to replace Sreesanth

India’s pace bowling department is in complete disarray with spearhead Zaheer Khan missing the tour because of a shoulder injury and speedster S Sreesanth being ruled out with a knee injury. Sreesanth will be replaced in the Test party by Baroda medium-pacer Munaf Patel.

To make matters worse, star spinner Harbhajan Singh is also down with fever, though the offie is certain to play the three-match Test series starting in Galle on July 18.

Over the next three days, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men will lock horns with a strong Board President’s XI, which will also include mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, though he was not named in the Sri Lankan squad for the Test series.

The presence of Dilhara Fernando, Chanaka Welegedara and Mendis renders a formidable look to the Board President’s XI attack.

Their batting looks decent enough with Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga and Lahiru Thirimanne in the ranks In Zaheer’s absence, his replacement Abhimanyu Mithun would fancy his chances of partnering Ishant Sharma and the warm-up match would be a perfect dress rehearsal for the Karnataka rookie ahead of the Test series.

In the slow bowling department, the team management is unlikely to risk Harbhajan and instead are expected to field both Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha before determining who should partner Harbhajan in the first Test.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Mendis, with the hosts hoping he will torment the Indian batsmen just like he had done two years ago. With Muttiah Muralitharan retiring after the first Test, Mendis has a golden opportunity to stake his claim in the Sri Lankan squad for the second and third Tests and the warm-up match would be another occasion to impress the selectors about his ability.

Sreesanth to return

Meanwhile, the BCCI announced that Sreesanth will return home following the knee injury that has necessitated Munaf to be called up as replacement.

Sreesanth was ruled out after an MRI scan revealed a ligament tear. Sreesanth’s misfortune, however, turned out to be the best birthday gift for Munaf, who turned 27 on Monday.

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