India look to bounce back in Sanga farewell game

Colombo :  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 Test starting 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 sharp focus on their selection. Vijay 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 injury.

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. —PTI

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