India are visiting Sri Lanka for a full-fledged series commencing on 26th July consisting of three Tests, five ODIs and a T20I. There have been wholesale changes since the last time India faced Sri Lanka in a Test series. Virat Kohli had just taken over from MS Dhoni in Tests on a permanent basis. India came back to win the series 2-1 after losing the first test in Galle. Ravi Shastri has been appointed as coach in place of Anil Kumble amidst controversial circumstances. India are currently ranked as the No.1 side in the world in Tests and this series starts the cycle of challenging away tours that await India.
India have been outstanding in Tests in the past two years, in particular. They have largely dominated Test matches and whenever they been in difficult situations, they have managed to find a way to overturn them into victories. The team has been playing an aggressive brand of cricket and have looked to dominate opposition sides as much as possible.
The batting line up looks solid as ever and there are several options in each position. Karun Nair has been dropped from the side after a lean run in recent times despite the fact that he scored a triple century in the final Test against England not too long ago. Murali Vijay isn’t part of the squad as he still recovering from an injury he suffered before the IPL. Vijay has become a really dependable player at the top and India are likely to miss him badly. KL Rahul has made a comeback to cricket after about four months when he injured his shoulder during the Australian Test series. He has shined whenever he has played but could take some time in settling after a long layoff.
Abhinav Mukund and Shikhar Dhawan will compete for the other opening slot. Mukund has been a consistent performer in domestic cricket for several years and Dhawan is coming off an outstanding Champions Trophy, where he finished as top scorer in the tournament. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane form the core of the batting lineup and are key to whatever success India strive to have. Following the recent saga with regards to the change in coach, Kohli, in particular, will be under pressure to deliver results both as a batsman and as a captain. Rohit Sharma is making a comeback after quite a while out of the Test side and in Wriddhiman Saha, India have a dependable and solid wicketkeeper.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are now a world class pair of spinners, and in Kuldeep Yadav, India have a mystery chinaman bowler who did well in his first Test match against Australia. The fast bowling stocks have also vastly improved under Kohli, with the likes of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar all in the reckoning for the spot in the team. There are also promising talents like Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur on the fringes of the squad. Hardik Pandya is being groomed to take up the mantle as the primary fast bowling allrounder and although he may not play immediately, he is being viewed as a player who will be key for India when they travel outside the subcontinent.
This upcoming series will be more of a preparation for tougher tests that lie ahead for India, who haven’t done well in Tests in overseas conditions in the last five years. It will be a challenge for Virat Kohli and co. to overturn their fortunes. This series will also provide India to test out some combinations and identify their best starting XI’s depending on the conditions, and that will be important to do well in overseas tours. Sterner challenges like the one away in South Africa lie ahead this year, and that would prove to be the real test. But first up, India will look to negotiate their island neighbours, as Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli seek to re-ignite their partnership and it is important that they start off well.
Squad: Virat Kohli (C), S Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.