About the Match
India lands on Sri Lankan shores as the top-ranked test team in the world and firm favorites against a side that is going through a lengthy transition period. On paper, this series is one that India should win easily, but as Australia recently found out, touring Sri Lanka is a unique challenge altogether.
There is a lot of trepidation among the Sri Lankan media and fans about the fate of their team in this series. After all, they lost a match to Bangladesh recently and were pushed to the brink by Zimbabwe, so the world’s best test team could be a much bigger task.
While the fears are not unfounded, we think that it is not quite as dire for Sri Lanka just yet.
In Kusal Mendis, Rangana Herath, Upul Tharanga, and some very talented youngsters, Sri Lanka has more than a couple of players capable of winning them matches. They will also not make the mistake of underestimating India and better planned than they were against Zimbabwe.
Ever since Muralitharan has retired from test cricket, Rangana Herath has taken over the role of chief destroyer and continued to win matches for Sri Lanka. He has taken five wickets in an innings 20 times and ten wickets in a match seven times since 2012.
His record against India, though, is the worst among all oppositions and he would be very keen to change that. If Herath starts to get in the wickets, he can run through sides in a hurry.
The one weakness that Sri Lanka will find difficult to overcome is their inexperienced pace attack. Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Pradeep have been found wanting in home conditions and a failure to take early wickets against a strong batting lineup like India’s could be very expensive.
Dinesh Chandimal enjoys playing against India but will be missing from this match and maybe the series because of an illness. In his place, we expect Danushka Gunathilaka to come in especially since he played a match winning innings against India in the Champions Trophy. The conditions will be different but confidence does carry over.
Angelo Mathews may not be at his best right now but unshackled from the captaincy he may actually play with a lot of freedom. He, Asela Gunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella form a more than capable middle order.
Dilruwan Perera is expected to be the second spinner in the side.
The Indian squad for this tour is almost exactly the same that toured here in 2015 and managed to win a very exciting series. The talk from the camp has been one of clear favorites with a mindset guarding against complacency being the most frequently heard thing.
India will be going into this match without Lokesh Rahul or Murali Vijay and thus we think Abhinav Mukund and Shikhar Dhawan will take over as openers.
Dhawan was in excellent short format form and should do well in the test as well but Abhinav Mukund could find going a little more difficult especially on wearing pitches. The middle order of Cheteshwara Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane is the one that will be expected to do the bulk of the scoring in this series.
Pujara is a test match specialist and was very good on turning wickets against Australia at home while Virat Kohli and Pujara like the ball coming on to the bat much better. It will be interesting to see what kind of approach they take to the spinners, of whom they will undoubtedly face a lot.
The next two positions are still up for grabs. India could go in with Rohit Sharma at 6, Wriddhiman Saha at 7 followed by Hardik Pandya, Ashwin, Jadeja, and Umesh Yadav allowing them the luxury of a long batting lineup.
Kohli though likes to play with five bowlers and so could actually drop Rohit Sharma and include one extra spinner/fast bowler depending upon the surface. The latter is what see India doing.
India’s biggest strength is going to be the bowling pair of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Both of them are relentless and if the pitches start to turn like they usually do in Sri Lanka, the pair of them will be very difficult to stop.
India is a very well drilled team with plenty of experience and success behind them. Virat Kohli and new coach Ravi Shastri have publicly stated that sustained overseas success is their real goal and so this is one series that they will really want to win.
Pitch and Conditions
The track at Galle is reported to be sporting some grass but that may change as the toss approaches. Typically, a Galle pitch starts to take significant spin around the end of the third day. The team winning the toss will almost certainly try to bat first so that they can have the best of the conditions.
A little bit of rain is around and a few interruptions throughout the match can be expected.
India can be slow starters on tour and Sri Lanka will look at this as their best opportunity to spring a surprise. We think India still deserves to be favorites but in-play hedging on Sri Lanka is highly recommended.
Back India to win