In its first overseas tour of 2017, India take on Sri Lanka in three-match Test series followed by five ODIs and one T20I.
India led by Virat Kohli are back to the place from where the successful journey of his young team started, Galle. In 2015 at this same venue, India lost the first Test but then sprung back to clinch the series. After that there was no stopping a resurgent Team India, who won 12 off the 17 Tests last year.
From last year to present, nothing much has changed at least in the team composition, except for Anil Kumble being replaced by Ravi Shastri as head coach. India had a dominating home season against top teams like England, New Zealand and Australia with each member of the team having a clear understanding of their roles.
They only concern before the start of the first Test for India are its openers. Murali Vijay was ruled out before the start of the series and Shikhar Dhawan being his replacement but on Monday KL Rahul too was ruled out of the first Test with a viral fever. In this scenario, Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund make obvious openers until the team management decides to open with Cheteshwar Pujara.
India have a right mix with Kohli, Pujara and Rahane in the middle-order followed by Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja down the order, who are handy bets with the bat. The fast bowling unit comprising of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar form a lethal unit in terms of pace, swing and when it comes to bowling with both the new and old ball. If Hardik Pandya gets a game, then he gives Kohli an option of a decent fifth bowling option. But it will all depend on the team composition.
At this time of the year in Sri Lanka there would be a bit of rain and the wickets would tend to hold up, which will bring the spinners into play. Will India field three spinners? That won’t be a problem with chinaman Kuldeep Yadav in the squad, who had an impressive Test debut in Dharamsala against Australia.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka are experiencing a slide with the team going through transition after the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. There has also been a change to their support staff after Graham Ford stepped down and later replaced by fielding coach Nic Pothas on an interim basis. For India Tests, they will have former cricketers Chaminda Vaas and Hashan Tillakaratne as bowling and batting coaches respectively. After Angelo Mathews relinquished captaincy, Dinesh Chandimal took over the reigns but unfortunately, he won’t be available for the first Test due to injury and Rangana Herath will be leading the side.
However, the series against a formidable Indian side gives Sri Lanka an opportunity to test their future players. From India’s point of view, they have a challenge of setting the right momentum for a new season.