India last hosted Sri Lanka for a Test series eight years ago. MS Dhoni was the captain of the side but he not even part of the team now. Virat Kohli had no ODI centuries. He will captain the side when they take the field on Thursday. The transformation in the Indian side coincides with that of Sri Lanka only that the visitors have not risen to the level they should have by now. From that 2009 series, only Murali Vijay and Ishant Sharma are the survivors and same is for Sri Lanka. Only two players, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath, will be in India this time.
Despite that, India look the stronger unit. They have not lost a Test series at home in last five years and whitewashed Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka earlier this year. The visitors can boost of a whitewash over Pakistan recently but against India, they are yet to win a Test match in India.
The Kolkata Test will be an opportunity for both India and Sri Lanka. The home team would like to extend their stay at the top while Sri Lanka would like to break the jinx. But there are some issues to be resolved first.
Kohli and his team need to answer one important question before the first Test against Sri Lanka. The Eden Gardens pitch has grass on it. While it does not look like the outfield, the pitch still has enough grass to assist the seamers. Now, India have some headache in selecting the playing XI on Thursday.
Seam all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been rested for the series and with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja back in the team, India are headed to play with three pacers. But, at a batsman’s cost.
Overcast conditions in Kolkata will also be helpful for the seamers and Kohli, as he said in the press conference, will like to use the grass on the pitch. Even in the last Test match play at the Eden Gardens, Bhuvneshwar Kumar took a five-wicket haul on the second evening. All this will play on the management’s mind when they pick the playing XI.
But all this may not materialise if the weather gods are in a bad mood. Kolkata has received rains on Wednesday and the weather will be similar for the next three days. India had to cancel their outdoor training session on Wednesday and as far as the predictions go, a delayed start to the Test looks likely.
What also makes Sri Lanka an unsuccessful side in India is their failure to score runs at will. Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne will share the responsibility of holding the batting together and Niroshan Dickwella can score quick runs.
Herath, who has been successful against most teams in the world, hasn’t done well in India. So he will look to turn that around in what could be his final series in India.
Last not but the least would be the challenge to counter India’s spin twins. Jadeja and Ashwin will Test Sri Lanka batsmen like they did in Sri Lanka. What makes the contest more intriguing is the fact that both the spinners last played an international game in Sri Lanka only.
The series, whoever repetitive, looks a good one if Sri Lanka can put India under pressure in even one of the matches. If India’s batting unit fails, Sri Lanka can fancy their chances.