Harsha Bhogle quite aptly commented, “in a boxing analogy, Sri Lanka are not in India’s weight category” after India achieved their biggest overseas win margin against the Lankans in the first Test of the three match series, defeating them by 304 runs.
The Sri Lankan cricket team is completely out of its depth against the visitors at the moment, struggling to put in decent performances against any team, be it Zimbabwe, or India. They will need a miracle to win in the second Test given current circumstances.
Both teams have their own headaches, the only difference being that India’s dilemmas are enviable, and the Lankans’ confounding, with no real solutions besides returning to the basics.
Rangana Herath (capt), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella(wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Malinda Pushpakumara, Nuwan Pradeep
Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, K. L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt.), Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, R Jadeja, W Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav and Abhinav Mukund.
Where the Teams Stand
Sri Lanka will welcome the return of Dinesh Chandimal for the second Test, who has recovered from pneumonia which he contracted earlier. The burden of captaincy seems to have impacted Herath’s performance in the first Test. He took only one wicket in the match, and the Indians looked supremely comfortable against his bowling. Chandimal will also ensure that the responsibility of scoring all the runs does not fall squarely on Tharanga and Mathews, both of whom succumbed early in the second innings of the match.
Chandimal will replace Gunaratne, who has been ruled out for two months after he fractured his finger. This is a huge blow for the Lankans. Gunaratne is a handy bowling option, and a talented lower order batsman who saved the Test against Zimbabwe for the home side. Nonetheless, Dilruwan Perera has been a revelation with the bat, scoring an impressive 92 in the first innings of the Test. Nuwan Pradeep came good with the ball too, taking 6 wickets in the first half.
Sri Lanka will need a well-rounded team performance to overcome the best Test side in the world by ICC’s current rankings. Herath and Pradeep will be key with the ball against an excellent batting lineup. The home side needs to focus on their bowling, because India is capable of easily chasing down any wild score their batsmen can possibly score.
Kohli’s decision to not enforce the follow on after Sri Lanka collapsed for 291 in the first innings worked out well for him. He scored a century after a string of bad performances in Test cricket that saw him score only 49 from 6 innings’. Mukund too found form, scoring a good 81 from 116 balls. This gives Kohli and Shastri a nice question to ponder over regarding India’s opening combination, with Dhawan, KL Rahul, and Mukund now vying for the two opening slots.
It would be madness to drop Dhawan after his explosive 190 in the first innings. He has made a habit of performing only when his place in the team is in danger, a frustrating conundrum for Indian fans. For now, his place is safe, and its upto captain and coach to decide who will partner him. KL Rahul would normally be first choice, but his viral fever ensured that Mukund received a chance to prove himself at the top, which he did. Since Mukund now has a good innings under his belt, India might not want to tamper with a winning combination.
Having said that, India can afford to give the likes of Kuldeep Yadav a chance to play international Test cricket, something that would undoubtedly benefit the chinaman bowler after his recent string of exemplary performances. India’s world-class squad ensures that they only need to stick to their winning formula, which is playing their natural game. If they do that and prevent Sri Lanka from making inroads, it will be tough to lose.
Chandimal’s return only marginally increases Sri Lanka’s chances of winning. India should comfortably defeat the home side once again.
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