India vs Sri Lanka contests might not create the same buzz as India vs Australia or India vs Pakistan, but the matches between this two sub-continental giants have always garnered interest and coincidentally Sri Lanka’s maiden Test win was against India in 1985. India, the numero uno Test side has been on a winning spree in recent past and the last time these two teams met India annihilated SL 9-0 across formats and proved that there is a wide difference between the two sides.
India under the captaincy of Virat Kohli have developed a ruthless streak and ever since the 2015 tour of Sri Lanka, men in blue have only lost two Test matches (Galle, 2015 vs SL; Pune, 2017 vs Australia). The team has been playing excellent cricket in the five-day format and Kohli’s exuberance has rubbed on rest of the team and it helps that India’s core has remained quite the same over the past two and a half years across conditions and irrespective of the opposition. When the legends such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman bid adieu to the international cricket there was a feeling that the team would struggle and it did struggle for a period of time, but now the big boots of this legends have been filled by the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli and the team has blossomed over the last couple of years.
Sri Lankan cricket is at crossroads and recent performance by the Lions has been appalling, to say the least. The Lions are also feeling the pinch of never winning a Test match on Indian soil and this series would be a bridge too far for this inexperienced and young side. SL, despite being a tiny island have always played with pride and fervour and has produced players such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and have also won cricket’s biggest prize i.e. World Cup in 1996. The situation of SL cricket is dire at the moment and the cricket board has to do a lot of soul searching if they want to reclaim their high and lofty standards.
Now coming back to the series, in wrestling terminology this contest could be described as lightweight vs heavyweight and on paper and form SL doesn’t stand a chance against mighty and rampaging Indians. Indian team has almost all the bases covered and the only point of contention would be to choose between Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul as openers. Indian selectors have rather naively rested Hardik Pandya (just starting his career) and the captain Kohli would be hard pressed to fill the vacuum left by Pandya. The series will also see the return of spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja after a while and both of them will be raring to go to prove their worth. The squad looks relaxed and happy and if they play to their potential then it will be mighty difficult for SL to win a single match.
As the old clique goes, cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and Lankan Lions would hope that it comes true. The team will be led by highly talented yet somewhat inconsistent Dinesh Chandimal and lot would be riding on senior pros Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath and Suranga Lakmal to lead from the front and carry the inexperienced players with them. The team has to play fearless cricket and have to take on the bull by the horns if they want to stand a chance against the No 1 ranked side and it may sound impossible, but the players and the coaching staff have to dig deep and make players believe in their abilities.
Indian team is the most followed team globally and Kohli has been a leader in the true sense and going by the logic and rationality then this series could become very one-sided and if India fails to whitewash SL then it would be counted as a disappointment. The more sterner challenges lie ahead (tour of South Africa) and the team would be looking at the bigger picture and for that team has to be in right mindset and for that to happen India has to execute its game plans perfectly and another sweep might be on the cards for the mighty and powerful New India.