New Delhi An infinitely superior India will be eager to carry out yet another demolition act on a below- par Sri Lanka when the two teams clash in the third and final Test starting here on Saturday.
India’s dominance has made the series a lopsided affair and the aspect which will be most interesting to observe tomorrow is the opening combination that the home team would pick.
After the batting debacle in the first innings of the first Test, Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul enjoyed a fruitful second innings with scores of 94 and 79 respectively. Murali Vijay, who was surprisingly kept out of playing XI for the first Test, came into the side in the second game in Dhawan’s absence to score 128. Now with Dhawan back in the squad, it is indeed a happy problem for skipper Virat Kohli, who has to choose two quality openers among three.
Had Kohli himself opted out of the third Test, then it would have been easier to fit in all three knowing that Rahul can also play at the No.4 position. But with Kohli playing, it would mean that one of the openers will have to sit out. If Karun Nair’s example is taken, he had to sit out because first-choice middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane was making a comeback to the side. If that policy is followed, then Dhawan and Rahul have a better chance but Vijay’s tighter technique also makes him a strong contender.
A bold decision could have been to drop an out-of-form Rahane from the playing XI and accommodate all three but that could be detrimental to the Indian vice-captain’s confidence as he will be a vital cog in the wheel for India in overseas conditions. India are 1-0 up in the series which could have easily been 2-0 had Kohli and his men got an extra 45 minutes on the final day of the rain-curtailed first Test that ended in a draw. With skipper Kohli himself questioning the need for such series in a roundabout manner, the unequal balance between the sides has been all too evident.
No wonder, India would be ideally hoping to put up another dominant show, aiming for a finish inside four days. One aspect of this encounter which could be of some relevance is the fact that this will be India’s last Test match at home for quite some time as the young team would embark on the toughest journey of their cricketing careers come 2018. Starting with three Tests against South Africa followed by the two marquee away series — five matches against England and four against Australia at the back-end of 2018 will define the character of Kohli as a leader and also the ability of his team.
Therefore it will be a good chance for the likes of Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin to rack up some more enviable numbers which will do a world of good to their confidence. Facing a Sri Lankan side, which has been nothing short of an embarrassment, is not the greatest of challenges but for world’s No 1 Test side, it will be an opportunity to get some much required match practice, which they unfortunately won’t get in South Africa save a two-day game. Add to it, the absence of their injured veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has left the island nation look like a rudderless ship.
Herath, with figures of 1/81 in 39 overs, was the only bowler who the Indians treated with respect during their innings and 239-run win in the second Test at Nagpur. Even worse, Angelo Mathews, who was supposed to take Sri Lanka cricket to the next level, has been woefully out of form. The Feroz Shah Kotla track may not be as flat as the one at Jamtha, where India scored 610/6 declared but it also won’t be a green top like the one they got at the Eden Gardens. Ishant Sharma, who had a match-haul of five wickets, would like to retain his place in the side even if Mohammed Shami gets injured. The last time a Test match was held at the Kotla in 2015, it was rated as the best pitch as the match against South Africa went deep into the fifth day.
But the current Sri Lanka side does not possess the kind of guts and gumption that Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and AB de Villiers displayed, which precisely is the reason that all and sundry are bracing for a quick finish.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami , Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella, Angelo Mathews, Dilruwan Perera, Jefferey Vandersay, Roshan Silva, Dashun Shanaka, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Lakshan Sandakan, Dhananjaya de Silva.
Match starts 0930 hrs.