New Delhi: India are all geared up, with an aim to upturn Galle humiliation they faced two years back and thereby extend their domination over Sri Lanka in the Test format, to face the Islanders at the same venue, tomorrow.
It is a huge series, a month-long tour and India embarked on the journey from where they rose to glory. For the Men in Blue, it is not just one reason which makes tomorrow's Test match all-so important, there goes quite a few factors adding to it.
Here are five talking points about the 1st Test match at Galle –
The Galle Humiliation:
If there is one thing that Team India would be eager to upturn when they enter the field for the first Test match, is to shrug off the humiliation they had faced when the two collided at the same venue two years back.
With a stellar bowling spell from Ashwin, Sri Lanka witnessed themselves stumbling down one-by-one to finally be bundled out for 183 runs. The offie had finished with 6/46 in the first innings. It was a brilliant opportunity for India and with the range of batsmen under their belt, they had the ability to take a larger lead.
Centuries from opener Shikhar Dhawan (134) and skipper (103) as India were staring at a larger total, but Tharinda Kushal crashed their party with a clinical five-wicket haul. As a result, India could only take a lead of 192 runs.
An astounding 162-run knock struck by Dinesh Chandimal with contributions from Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne and Jehan Mubarak, and this time Sri Lanka were the team that took the lead. Not much though, just 175 runs, something the visiting Indians could have easily achieved.
But it was the experienced spinner Rangana Herath who simply demolished the formidable Indian batting line-up. His 7/48 was just about than enough to give the home side a 63-run win. India were dismissed for a meager 112 runs on the fourth day. Indeed, it was a humiliating defeat for India.
Ravi Shastri's first assignment as India's head coach:
It was just a few weeks back that Ravi Shastri was announced as the new head coach of Team India, thus ending month-long speculation surrounding who will fill the void left by the acrimonious exit of Anil Kumble. Days later, Bharat Arun was put on the board by BCCI as the new bowling coach and Sanjay Bangar remaining as the assistant coach.
For Shastri, he is quite aware of how important the match is for the team. He was there at Galle when the team had lost by 63 runs and he had picked up the team from 1-0 down to a 2-1 victory in the three-match series. The Galle Test was an important point in Indian cricket as the things they learnt from here led to India's glory in the longer format of the game in the next two years.
Ashwin in a recent interview had said, "Ravi bhai has been a fabulous person in the dressing room. Last time, he was here in Galle and we lost the Test and he really picked all of us from that low point in our careers and he is someone who can have a positive influence in the dressing room. We are looking forward to working together."
KL Rahul, who returned back to the squad after a three month-long absence from cricketing action, made a quick exit after falling sick. His absence leaves skipper Kohli with a huge dilemma, as far as batting is concerned.
The first choice opener could now be Dhawan or newbie Abhinav Mukund, with the former having an upper edge in the decision. Another question is whether Rohit Sharma could get the opportunity to open.
"Rohit has never opened in a Test cricket and we don’t see that kind of experiment happening here because we have specialist openers in the team and they will obviously be starting this game,” said the Indian skipper.
Apart from these three, Ajinkya Rahane also remains an option for Kohli.
Ravichandran Ashwin's 50th Test:
As Team India prepares for the all-important opening Test match, Ashwin inches closer to yet another landmark in his illustrious career. Galle Test would mark his 50th.
So far, the offie has taken 275 wickets with an economy rate of 2.88. He has a record five-wicket haul of 25 and seven 10-wicket hauls. Interestingly, his last ten-wicket haul was at this same venue, in 2015. The match also marked his return to form into the longer format of the game and ergo he feels delighted to have returned back to the same place where he had revived himself.
"To come back to a place where I did really well last time in 2015 is like a dream come true because it was some sort of a momentous occasion for me then too.
"I was on the way back into the Test side and I got a six-for on the first day and went on to get a 10-for on the third day. It brings back a lot of good memories, coming back to the same venue. And 50th test is definitely something that has come about. I am not able to go back and retrace how I did it but I am very grateful to have gotten here. I think every Test match is a blessing from here on," Ashwin said.
Hardik Pandya's Test debut:
Hardik, who shot to fame with the last over thriller against Bangladesh to gift the Indians the Asia Cup in 2015, is yet to make his Test debut. Yes, his name is part of the 15-man squad that headed down to Sri Lanka, but there is no certainty that he will make the playing XI.
If the Gujarat-based all-rounder makes it to the playing XI, tomorrow, he would become India's 289th cricketer to play Test cricket. And captain Kohli feels that the youngster has a fairly good chance of playing at Galle.
At a recent presser, Virat said, "We got a guy like Hardik Pandya, who has a knack of picking wickets. He has a great chance of playing as well. That gives us the balance. The extra batsman gave us more solidarity. We have taken learnings from that and we will surely apply that straight away into the series. It is very important to have your strike bowlers to be able to pick up wickets."