India’s first-choice lineup will be back in action when they begin their three-match Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday. A much-changed squad traveled to Zimbabwe last month, where they took a clean sweep of a three-match One-Day International Series before splitting a pair of Twenty20 contests. But, led by captain Virat Kohli, India’s senior players will be back for what is the country’s first Test match since a drawn one-off duel with Bangladesh two months ago.
Not everyone will be at Kohli’s disposal, however. Opener Murali Vijay will miss the opening Test with a hamstring injury picked up in Zimbabwe, depriving India of their most consistent batsman over the past 14 months. In 19 innings in that time, Vijay has averaged over 54 and hit four centuries
“Murali Vijay is still under recovery and we don't want to take a chance on him for the first Test,” Indian team director Ravi Shastri said in announcing the news,” according to The Times of India. “Especially with conditions like this [rain on and off]. Ground might be slippery.
“He's the in-form player, he's had a fabulous run in Test cricket. He will be missed because he's an experienced player now.”
In Vijay’s place alongside Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order will come Lokesh Rahul, who scored 90 runs across two innings in India’s warm-up match against the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in Colombo. Rahul’s only previous two Test matches came in India’s series defeat to Australia at the turn of the year, and included him firing a century.
It was that series Down Under that saw Kohli replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni as Test captain, with the 26-year-old star now starting a Test series as skipper for the first time. His big selection decision could be to stick with five bowlers in his lineup, as was fielded against Bangladesh, having tasked the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh to provide more with the bat.
“That [playing with five bowlers] could be a big possibility,” he said, reports ESPN. “The idea is to take 20 wickets. That's that only way you win a Test match and I strongly believe we need to have the best bowlers playing in the squad.”
The series will be the first time the two countries have faced off in a Test match since they drew a three-match series in Sri Lanka five years ago. And it will be extra significance for Sri Lanka, with it being the final series before the retirement of legendary batsman Kumar Sangakkara. The 37-year-old former captain has scored more than 12,000 Test runs in his illustrious career.
Now led by Angelo Matthews, Sri Lanka’s last Test series ended in a 2-1 defeat at home against Pakistan in June and July. The squad for the first Test features uncapped bowler Vishwa Fernando but is missing injured pair Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal.
Sri Lanka vs. India Test schedule (each day’s play will start at 12.30 a.m. EDT)
1st Test: Aug. 12-16, Galle International Stadium, Galle
2nd Test: Aug. 20-24, P Sara Oval, Colombo
3rd Test: Aug. 28 to Sep. 1, Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo
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