India read inflict more humiliation on Sri Lanka
By Tapan Mohanta
Kolkata, Nov 15 (PTI) India would look to continue their ruthless streak while Sri Lanka would want to forget the annihilation suffered at home and chase what has been an improbable dream of winning a Test here when the two teams clash in a three-match series, starting here tomorrow.
There is a possibility of rain threat after home team's morning practice session was called off after a spell of shower.
India had inflicted on Sri Lanka, a humiliating 9-0 whitewash across three formats even as they bounced back to secure a surprise 2-0 win against Pakistan in the UAE.
There will be no let up from Team India, who are taking this series as a preparation for the gruelling two-month long South Africa tour where they play three Tests, six ODIs and three T20Is beginning with Cape Town Test on January 5.
Since that Test series in July-August, the hosts have played 13 ODIs and six Twenty20s but adjusting to the rigours of the longer-version of the game should not be an issue since most of the team members have played Ranji Trophy matches for their respective sides.
That the Islanders have not won a single Test in 16 appearances over 35 years (they first played in India in 1982) and travel with an inexperienced side will make the task onerous for skipper Dinesh Chandimal.
He will bank heavily on Angelo Mathews and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath - the two senior members who were part of the side which travelled here in 2009.
The Met office has predicted rain till November 18 under the influence of a well-marked low-pressure area that is making its way up the Bay of Bengal along the Indian coast and the series-opener may be a curtailed affair.
India look supremely confident at home barring a couple of selection dilemma looking at the Eden's seemingly greentop strip which may pave the way for the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in a likely three-plus-two bowling combination.
Bhuvneshwar last played a Test against Australia in Dharamsala in March this year and looked in good rhythm during India's practice sessions.
He will relish the conditions at the Eden where he picked up a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in the last Test played here in September 2016 as he may join the other two pace duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami.
In the spin line-up, India may stick to their their third Test line-up in Pallekele where chinaman Kuldeep Yadav made way for left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
The chinaman not only rolled his arm at the nets but had an extended batting session but it remains to be seen if India leaves out Jadeja, who is also a handy option with the bat.
Murali Vijay is back after recovering from a wrist injury that had left him out of the Sri Lanka tour. The Tamil Nadu opener is confident after his 140 against Odisha in Cuttack but was not seen much in action during practice, an indication that Kohli may stick to Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul up front.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored two centuries in Sri Lanka, not only gives the Indian batting solidity but has a calming effect on the team with his penchant for marathon innings.
Further down, skipper Kohli will be desperate to be back among runs after getting only one second innings hundred against Sri Lanka at Galle (103).
In the middle order, Ajinkya Rahane too was among runs with a century and a fifty in Sri Lanka. In the absence of Hardik Pandya, who has been rested, R Ashwin will look to shoulder the responsibility in batting.
If winning a Test is a dream for Chandimal, it would not come easy as their batsmen will have to spend considerable time on the crease.
Touted as Sri Lanka's next big thing, Sadeera Samarawickrama is likely to take the opening slot left vacant after the sacking of Kaushal Silva.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne is fresh from a career-best 196 against Pakistan in the Dubai Test and the soutpaw would look to carry forward his form.
The team think tank has made it clear that Mathews, the seniormost member in their batting group, will not be used in bowling and the onus would be on him to return among runs.
Incidentally, his last hundred came against India -- a knock of 102 in Colombo in August, 2015.
In the bowling, they will rely heavily on Herath but it remains to be seen who will assist him.
They have the promising chinaman Lakshan Sandakan who had a five-wicket haul against India in the Pallekele Test but in Indian conditions it remains to be seen whether they will opt the inexperienced spinner ahead of offspinner Dilruwan Perera.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvenshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Niroshan Dickwella (wicketkeeper), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Dasun Shanaka and Roshen Silva.
Match starts: 0900am IST