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Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test Preview: Focus on cricket after tumultuous time off the field

Team India will be playing a Test after four months and will look to begin from where they left last season.

India Test Team BCCI
Team India (Photo Source: Twitter)

India will be seen in the whites after a gap of four months. They played exhilarating Test cricket over the last 12 months, winning 12 out of 16 Tests and losing just one. After the Anil Kumble saga, the players will be glad to resume playing cricket. This will be Ravi Shastri’s first assignment as the head coach of India ergo; the limelight will be on him throughout the series.

Sri Lanka have struggled in international cricket of late but their home Test record still stands firm. They recently beat Zimbabwe in a tough game, registering the highest chase ever recorded in Asia in Test cricket. Rangana Herath will lead the side after regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal was ruled unfit for this encounter. The Islanders have won five of their last six home Tests, including the win against minnows Zimbabwe.

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India will be a little worried as both their regular openers – Murali Vijay and KL Rahul – are not participating in this Test. This is a perfect opportunity for Dhawan, who has been in prolific form in the ODIs, to stake his claim in the Test side. Abhinav Mukund too will get a chance to revive his Test career. The comeback of Rohit Sharma gives them a selection worry as he is too good a player to be warming the bench. Kohli will have to decide whether he wants to go in with four bowlers to accommodate Rohit in the XI.

Focus will be on:

Shikhar Dhawan

Dhawan has had a tremendous return in the ODIs. He won his second successive Golden Bat at the ICC Champions Trophy in June after his stellar run in the competition. He did not get many runs in the Caribbean but looked in good touch in the first couple of games. The Delhi boy will be playing his first Test since October, missing 11 Test matches in a row. The pressure will be immense but Dhawan’s good form will help him settle into an innings. He warmed himself up well by getting an unbeaten 41 in the practice game. To his advantage, he has made a Test ton in Galle the last time India toured Sri Lanka in 2015. At 31, there might not be many opportunities left for him to revive his Test career thus Dhawan must look to make the most of it.

Rangana Herath

The stand-in skipper has a big role to play in this series. Even at 39, the left-arm spinner is a threatening bowler. He turned the game on its head the last time both teams played at Galle picking 7/48 in the second innings and help his side to an improbable 63-run win. Herath is not oxidizing with age at all. Since 2016, Herath has 87 wickets to his name off 14 Tests. Only R Ashwin, who has 99 off 17 Tests has picked more wickets than the left-arm bowler. Herath recorded a match haul of 11 wickets against Zimbabwe last week which helped his side get to a tough win. He will have to lead from the front if Sri Lanka wants to do well in this Test match.

Playing Combinations

India

In all probability, Dhawan and Mukund are set to open the batting as Rahul has been ruled out of the Test match. India might think about getting Rohit opening the innings alongside Dhawan but chances of this happening look very bleak. Chestashwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane will make up the middle order of India. If Rohit doesn’t open, he might still get into the side at the No. 6 spot. Saha and Ashwin are much improved batsmen and will do justice to the No. 7 and 8 spots. Ravindra Jadeja will partner Ashwin in the spin department and will also be responsible for getting quick runs with the bat lower down the order. Umesh Yadav will be the first choice fast bowler following impressive showings in the previous season. Ishant Sharma will partner him with the new ball though India will be tempted to go in with Mohammed Shami.

Sri Lanka

Upul Tharanga’s return has given the hosts solidity at the top of the order. He will open alongside Dimuth Karunaratne. Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews are two pivotal batsmen in the Sri Lankan middle order. Danushka Gunathilaka might get to debut after coming up with impressive performances in ODIs. Last Test match’s heroes – Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne – will bat at No. 6 and 7 again. Dilruwan Perera and Herath will be the spinners in the XI. Fast bowlers Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Kumara are expected to share the new ball.

Predicted XI:

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund, Chestashwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asela Gunaratne, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath (c), Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Pradeep.

Stat Attack

50 – Ashwin will be representing India in his 50th Test match.

97 – runs required by Ashwin to complete 2,000 Test runs. He will be the fourth Indian to complete the double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket.

10 – runs required by Angelo Mathews to go past Hashan Tillakaratne to become the 9th highest scorer for Sri Lanka in Test cricket.

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