India and Sri Lanka – two teams with contrasting fortunes in Test cricket, over the last couple of years, will resume rivalry in the longest format of the game from Thursday (November 16) at the iconic Eden Gardens.
The hosts are invincible at home, losing just one Test under Virat Kohli’s captaincy and are yet to lose a Test series since the Delhi star took charge of the team towards the end of 2014.
Right from the top-order to the middle order and bowling department, India have all the bases covered unlike their opponents who have shown indifferent form in Test cricket in recent times.
While India managed to beat the likes of New Zealand, England, Australia at home in the last home season, Sri Lanka could not quite build upon the historic 3-0 whitewash over Australia. The win was followed by a whitewash in South Africa. The Islanders then lost their first-ever Test against Bangladesh before somehow managing to pull off a win against Zimbabwe. Their misery was further compounded by the three nil whitewash at home against India. While the defeats were surely a tough pill to swallow for the beleaguered hosts, the manner of defeats is more alarming. Every defeat was followed by even a heavier thrashing as Dinesh Chandimal & Co. failed to put up a good challenge against Virat Kohli & Co.
However, Sri Lanka showed that they can still beat the best of teams on their day as they whitewashed Pakistan 2-0 in United Arabia Emirates, thus becoming the first team to inflict a series defeat on Pakistan since they shifted base in 2009. They won the first Test by 21 runs while defending a modest 135 before winning the following game by 68 runs to seal a historic series win.
Only time will tell whether India continues its domination or whether the visitors put up a stiff challenge.
We take a look at the team news and the prediction for the series-opener:
With Hardik Pandya rested, India are set to bring in another new player in the playing eleven, thus extending the trend of not fielding the same playing eleven since Virat Kohli took over the captaincy.
Rohit Sharma, whose last Test appearance came in Indore last year against New Zealand, is looking primed to return to the playing eleven to replace Pandya. Rohit has been in sizzling form in limited-overs cricket since returning from the injury and looks the most likely player to replace the all-rounder.
At the top of the order, Murali Vijay is also looking set to replace Shikhar Dhawan despite the latter bagging the Man of the Series Award in the last Test series against Sri Lanka.
With the team’s policy making it clear that the regular players would be drafted back straight in the playing eleven after an injury, Vijay looks set to get the nod ahead of Dhawan.
Barring these two changes, it is tough to see India making any other change to the settled team.
The Islanders have received a big blow ahead of the series as their talismanic all-rounder Angelo Mathews will not bowl to avoid any injury and as a result they will now have to find the alternatives to bowl. Barring that, the visitors do not have any other concern and they will be raring to avenge for their whitewash at home.
With form and history on their side, it is looking more than likely that India would emerge the winners at the Eden Gardens. Sri Lanka have never won a Test in India in 17 attempts and are not looking likely to break the duck against a side which is currently the best in the world. What makes their task even more tough that their biggest match-winner in Tests, Rangana Herath, who starred in the series against Pakistan, averages 45 against India.
So considering every aspect, India taking the lead in the three-match series is looking the only possibility.
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