India for spoiling Sangakkara’s farewell blast
Handed an unexpected thrashing in the opening game, India would look to plug their loopholes and get their team combination right even as Sri Lanka eye a series winning farewell for their iconic batsman Kumar Sangakkara in the second cricket Test starting here today.
The visitors dominated the first Test in Galle, yet ended up on the losing side, going down by 63 runs after having the hosts on the mat for a major part of the game.
Despite all talk of aggression and winning attitude, when it mattered most, the Indian players failed to bring up the goods with both bat and ball. Middle-order batsman Dinesh Chandimal’s counter-attacking hundred was not the first of its kind, yet the team was unresponsive and didn’t have a plan C after their plans A and B failed. While batting, they collapsed under pressure to quality spin bowling, just like they had done against the likes of Moeen Ali and Nathan Lyon on the English and Australian tours respectively.
In nine Tests on those two tours, Indian batsmen conceded 42 wickets to two spinners. With the addition of 15 more wickets in the Galle Test, it makes for a staggering 57 wickets to spinners in just 10 matches outside India (not counting the drawn Bangladesh Test). The P Sara wicket is expected to have more bounce, but it will still support spin bowling, and as such the team management will be worried about the Lankan attack despite deflecting attention off India’s spin problems in the aftermath of the Galle Test. It will put <g data-gr-id="52">sharp</g> focus on their selection. Yesterday, opener Murali Vijay batted comfortably in the nets. But more than that, he also played football, the team’s pre-practice warm-up ritual and it was the best indicator yet that his right hamstring is holding up just fine.
<g data-gr-id="44">Therefore</g> he is expected to come back into the XI and replace the injured Shikhar Dhawan who was ruled out of the rest of the series owing to a <g data-gr-id="42">right hand</g> injury sustained in the first Test. Despite his twin failures in Galle, Rohit Sharma is expected to play and indeed bat at number three again.
Compared to the out-of-favour Cheteshwar Pujara, he has looked busier in the nets, batting in pairs with Virat Kohli and also taking catching practice at third slip. It puts the focus squarely on the combination of the playing eleven, and herein Stuart Binny comes into the picture.
Both the skipper and the team director have made their idea of a five-pronged attack clear. But in the Galle Test, the fifth bowler was used more as a fallback option to rotate the primary four bowlers. This role didn’t suit Harbhajan Singh’s stature, nor could the senior off-spinner do justice to that role.
In a way, it also weakened India’s batting position. The S.O.S call to Binny within 24 hours of that match ending means that he can be expected to play this role in the second Test, and he is no stranger to it, having done so earlier in three Tests in England. This move underlines India’s search for an all-rounder again, and it will be keenly observed if Binny can provide that answer in the short term. Yet, this second Test will be <g data-gr-id="47">more</g> pertinent indicator of the mindset of this team than anything else. Ever since the new Test skipper and the team director have joined hands, there has been a lot of talk about winning matches with an aggressive brand of cricket.
In four matches that Kohli has led thus far, he is still to taste victory, losing twice in Adelaide and Galle when victory was in sight. The question is will they up the ante now, when it matters most, with the series at stake. They will look to take inspiration from the last trip <g data-gr-id="45">here,</g> when in 2010, India beat Sri Lanka by five wickets, thanks to hundreds from Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman. Coincidentally, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra and Murali Vijay were part of that victory and might be able to help their team push in the right direction.
India could take some confidence from the fact that Mishra, Vijay, now a solid opener, and Ishant, played in that rare win.
We have it in us to bounce back in series, SAYS CONFIDENT Virat Kohli
Indian cricket skipper Virat Kohli says his team is well-equipped to bounce back against Sri Lanka and the players are “hungry and keen to perform” in the second Test starting here on Thursday. India suffered a shock defeat in the first Test in Galle despite dominating the series-opener for a major part.
“We definitely have it in us to bounce back. There is no point thinking about or living in the past. More often than not, if you dominate six sessions, it means that you are on top in the Test match and you should be able to win the game but that wasn’t the case,” Kohli said in the pre-match press conference.“But the preparation has been pretty good for this particular Test match.
This is a learning curve, and the guys will learn how to get over defeats and prepare for the next one. The good thing is everyone is hungry and keen to perform. The guys understood that things need to be forgotten and they were pretty professional,” he said. Murali Vijay, nursing a hamstring injury, is expected to be fully fit for the second Test as he batted for a long while in the nets. Kohli was hopeful that the opener will make it to the playing XI.
“We will know on Wednesday if he is hundred percent fit to play or not. His rehab program is going well under Patrick Farhart who is our new physio. <g data-gr-id="136">Hopefully</g> he is fully fit.
If he wants to play and is keen then I am sure he can go through whatever discomfort he might have to go through. We will have to take that <g data-gr-id="101">call</g> but we are pretty certain that he is most probably going to play tomorrow,” said Kohli.