After narrowly escaping defeat against minnows Zimbabwe in the one-off Test last week, Sri Lanka will face a real Test when they take on India in a three-match Test series followed by a limited-over series—five ODIs and a one-off T20. The victory against Zimbabwe last week may have pumped up the Sri Lankan side’s morale [...]


Tough series await the Lankans -Jayasuriya


Indian skipper Virat Kohli greets Upul Tharanga, the limited over skipper at a press conference in Colombo. Pic by Amila Gamage

After narrowly escaping defeat against minnows Zimbabwe in the one-off Test last week, Sri Lanka will face a real Test when they take on India in a three-match Test series followed by a limited-over series—five ODIs and a one-off T20.

The victory against Zimbabwe last week may have pumped up the Sri Lankan side’s morale but their struggle towards a record run-chase proved that the road was bumpy for a team that has lately been consistently inconsistent in bowling, batting and fielding.

“It’s going to be a very tough series,” admitted Chief Selector Sanath Jayasuriya. “We need to work hard in all three departments to beat India, a team that plays top class cricket at present.”

Sri Lanka were on the brink of defeat before half-centuries by Niroshan Dickwella (81) and Asela Gunaratne (80 not out) helped the team win by four wickets against Zimbabwe.

Impressed by the record breaking run-chase—the highest successful chase in Asia—Jayasuriya said he’s confident his charges will challenge the Indians even though the quality of the opposition was far higher.

“If they (Sri Lanka) can chase down 388 and win against a quality attack, I think they are capable of beating any side,” Jayasuriya said.

The victory was like manna from heaven to the “wounded” Sri Lankans whose inconsistent performances have resulted in more defeats than wins in recent months, in stark contrast to their neighbour.

Apart from last week’s victory against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka’s recent record has been mediocre. During the last 24 months, Sri Lanka played 24 Test matches, losing 12, winning 11 and drawing one. India, during the same period, recorded 17 wins in a similar number of matches. They have two losses (one each against Sri Lanka and Australia) with the rest being draws.

“Indians are the number one ranked team for the right reasons,” said Jayasuriya who, twenty years ago, scored Sri Lanka’s first ever triple-century with 340 against the Indians. “They have a very strong batting and a bowling unit. They are also brilliant in their fielding. So we need to pull our socks up in all three departments to challenge them. But I am confident that, if they can play the fearless brand of cricket they usually play, we are in for a very exciting series.”

Adding salt to the wound, Sri Lanka’s new Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal will not take the field when the first game begins in Galle on Wednesday as he is being treated for pneumonia. In his absence, spinner Rangana Herath will lead the side, his third outing as skipper, having shouldered the responsibility against Zimbabwe last year and Bangladesh this March.

“It’s a big loss for us but that’s something unavoidable,” Jayasuriya added. “Now it is Rangana’s turn to step up and lead the side from the front.”

Sri Lanka’s recent capitulation was so bad that some critics have completely written off national team after they conceded the second and final Test match to Bangladesh. Even the Test match win against Zimbabwe did not come that easy for the Lankans.

While the team’s batting has shown a glimpse of improvement, their bowling has been far from impressive. What would Sri Lanka’s predicament be when spinner Rangana Herath retires? At 39, he is Sri Lanka’s only match winner but Jayasuriya said they have earmarked a replacement.

“He is our top spinner and the go-to man in crisis situations,” he admitted. “We all know he is nearing the end of his career but we are watching him closely and looking after him carefully. We also have a left-arm spinner in Malinda Pushpakumara knocking the door,” he said. Pushpakumara was part of the Sri Lankan squad for Bangladesh and has also been named in the mix against India.

India is on a steady rise. They made a stunning comeback in the series in Sri Lanka in 2015. After losing the first Test in Galle by 63 runs, they clinched the next two Tests to clinch the series 2-1. In Colombo, Kohli said that series was the start of a winning streak. They secured seven series victories in a row within the last two years and became the number 1 ranked team in the world.

“I think this particular series in Sri Lanka gave us belief, coming back from 0-1 down in the series,” Kohli said, speaking to local press in Colombo. “After losing that Test in Galle which was quite a dent for us mentally, the way the team came together was iconic as far as where we have come in the last two years is concerned.”

Kohli said that they would not take any team lightly, particularly the Sri Lankans who have been a formidable outfit at home.

“We definitely never take any game lightly,” he reiterated. “We never take any opposition lightly. We give equal respect to any opposition because you can be a strong or a weak side but this game is the same game, everyone plays the same game, you play with a bat and a ball. It is nobody’s game for the taking before it starts. You have to earn your victories and it’s something we respect as a team. I do feel that, if we want to win series in any country in the world, we have to play good cricket and we have to work for it, which we are ready to do.”

10 things you should know about
Sri Lanka vs India Test cricket

With India set to travel to Sri Lanka for a full-series, we look at some of the interesting stats in Test cricket. Out of the 14 series they have played both away and home, Sri Lanka have won three series to that of seven by the Indians.
1. A Marathon 576-run
It was 1997. The venue was the R Premadasa Stadium. A marathon 576-run partnership between Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama (225) took Sri Lanka to a record 952 runs. Sanath Jayasuriya scored 340 and remains the only Sri Lankan batsman to score a triple hundred in Sri Lanka-India Tests.
2. Double Centurions
Mahela Jayawardene (275 and 242) and Virender Sehwag (293 and 201*) are the only batsmen to score double hundreds on two occasions. Sehwag’s 293 is the highest individual score by an Indian batsman against Lanka.
3. The Centurions
Sachin Tendulkar has scored nine hundreds – a record in Sri Lanka-India Test series. Mahela Jayawardene is at a distance second with six.
4. Murali the great
Spin great Muttiah Muralidaran has picked 105 wickets against India while Anil Kumble has 74 against Sri Lanka in India-Sri Lanka Test series.
5. 11 Wickets
Muttiah Muralitharan is the only cricketer to have captured 11 or more wickets in a match. He returned figures of 11 for 110 in 2008 and 11 for 196 in 2001.
6. Worst bowling
Rangana Herath has the worst bowling figures for a Sri Lankan bowler in terms of runs conceded. He had conceded 240 runs in 53.3 overs picking three wickets.
7. Catches win Matches
Mohammad Azharuddin of India with 27 catches and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka with 22 catches hold the record for most number of catches in Sri Lanka-India Tests.
8. Most dismissals behind the wicket
Amal Silva, considered one of the best wicket-keepers Sri Lanka have ever produced, holds the record for most dismissals behind the wicket. He has 22 dismissals in six innings with 21 catches and one stumping. Former Indian skipper MS Dhoni also has 22 dismissals with 21 catches and one stumping but in 16 innings.
9. Partnerships for
Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan batsmen have put on six 200-plus partnerships including two 300-plus partnerships against India. This includes a 576 runs for the second-wicket between Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama in 1997 which represents the highest three-figure partnership against India.
10. Partnerships for India
Indian batsmen have posted 43 three-figure partnerships against
Sri Lanka. The 272 runs score for the sixth-wicket between Azharuddin and Kapil Dev in 1996 represents the highest three-figure partnership against
Sri Lanka.

Dhananjaya, Malinda and Nuwan in Test squad
Batsman Dhananjaya de Silva, left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara and seamer Nuwan Pradeep have all been recalled to the national Test squad for the three-match Test series against India. Pradeep last played a Test against South Africa in January while de Silva comes back to the side after missing the Zimbabwe Test. Pushpakumara was in the squad for the two-match Test series against Bangladesh but is yet to make his debut. Out from the squad are skipper Dinesh Chandimal who is  being treated for pneumonia and leftarmer Lakshan Sandakan who bowls the chinaman.

Sri Lanka Test squad: Rangana Herath (c), Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara

India Test squad: Virat Kohli(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.