In Stats: SL’s Recent Record Proves Why India are Firm Favourite
India take on Sri Lanka in three-match Test series at home. But are the visitors any match to the hosts?
6 September 2017: India beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets in the third and final T20 International of the series and inflicted on the hosts a 9-0 score line, whitewashing the hosts in all three formats.
Barely 70 days later, the two teams will be up against each other once again. On Thursday, 17 November, the Indian and Sri Lankan cricket teams will set foot onto the turf at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, to play the first Test of the three-Test series (which will be followed by three ODIs and three T20Is).
If not for commercial considerations – which tend to dictate most things in this generation, one wonders why two teams would play two full bilateral series in a span of six months. That is certainly one of the drawbacks of cricket being a niche sport, and of having a format that is played by only 10 teams across the world.
All Things in Place… Ready for Action
The teams have arrived in Kolkata, most things are in place, and so it will be India vs Sri Lanka until 24 December for the 55th time in this decade.
Given the recent history and where the two teams stand in the ICC rankings, the two teams appear a mismatch – this, before the first ball has been bowled in the series.
Team India are the top-ranked team in the ICC Test ranking, while Sri Lanka are ranked a distant sixth.
There are four Indian batsmen in the top 10 places in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen, while Sri Lanka’s best batsman is Dimuth Karunaratne – who is ranked 17th. On the bowling front, while there are three Indians in the top 20, only one Sri Lankan finds a mention in the top 24 places.
There was a time when Sri Lanka had the resources to compete – Sri Lankan teams of the past have boasted of the likes of Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillakaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, etc at various points in time.
While being fully aware that the sport can write its own script and cause upsets, if those Sri Lankan teams of the past couldn’t win a Test match in India, what chance does the current Sri Lankan team have?
While the visitors will definitely have the 9-0 whipping they received at home in the back of their minds, there is no denying there must be certain positive vibes flowing in the dressing room. The belief must be back in the dressing room too, after Sri Lanka became the first team in more than a decade to defeat Pakistan in a Test series in the UAE.
The return to the side of Angelo Mathews, who is undoubtedly the most versatile batsman in the Sri Lankan dressing room, must give the middle order steel and some much-needed assurance. The returning Mathews will himself have plenty to prove, for his record against India and in India are fairly ordinary – particularly compared to the highs he achieved while he was captain.
This Sri Lankan side appears to be fairly equipped on the batting front. But do they have the wherewithal to take 20 Indian wickets?
The three specialist quicks in the squad have a total of 42 Test caps and 94 wickets between them. Rangana Herath, the leader of the bowling group and the team’s highest wicket-taker, has a shocking record in Tests against India, while the other specialist spinner Lakshan Sandakan has only seven Test caps and 20 wickets as returns.
Questions for Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli
Though Team India sits at the perch of the rankings, they too have a few areas to address – particularly because the conditions they are likely to encounter at the Eden Gardens will be a little alien to them.
In recent times, the surface at the Eden Gardens has afforded the quick bowlers plenty of assistance, and it is being reported that the surface for this Test match will have enough live grass. With Hardik Pandya not available for selection, coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli need to find a combination that can do the damage – without any named resource or position being under-utilised.
Will India go the five bowlers way – and if so, pick one of Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Ishant Sharma as the third pacer, or bolster the batting by adding Rohit Sharma in the middle order?
It is likely Team India will go the five-bowler way.
There also remain question marks over the opening combination. Murali Vijay has been India’s first-choice opening batsman for a while now. However, while he was away from the team due to a wrist injury, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul combined well in Sri Lanka. However harsh it will be, one expects Dhawan and Rahul to open the batting in Kolkata; remember, this pair added 188 in that final Test match against Sri Lanka.
Follow The Quint for full coverage of the Sri Lanka’s tour to India.
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