ICC top spot at risk, India look to bounce back
Colombo: Still licking the wound of a 10-wicket mauling in Galle, a jittery India go into the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka starting here on Monday with their status as world number one team at stake.
The visitors were outplayed in all departments of the game in the first match and they risk being dislodged from their ICC top ranking, besides surrendering the three-match series, if they lose the second Test at Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.
A 2-0 or 3-0 series scoreline in Sri Lanka`s favour will remove India from the perch and lift the hosts to the top spot.
India can regain their top ranking if they win the third Test starting on August 3 at P Sara Oval as a 1-2 series loss will keep them safe at the perch.
A loss in the second Test will also mean that India continue their 17-year-old jinx of not winning a Test series in Sri Lanka after Mohammad Azharuddin-led side`s feat in 1993.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said that lack of experience in the pace attack and failure to build partnerships while batting have cost his side the first Test.
"We lacked experience in bowling. It was a learning experience for the seamers, but they did a decent job. We did not have big partnerships while batting. Once you lose your top six or seven batsmen and if you don`t have too many runs on the board it becomes very difficult," Dhoni had said after the first Test.
With the pace bowling resources severely depleted in the absence of strike bowler Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth, the onus is now on the batting stars to perform and pile up runs if the visitors are to bounce back in the three-match series.
Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh were among the runs in the first Test but their performances were not enough to prevent a 10-wicket defeat to Kumar Sangakkara`s men.
The Indian batsmen will be relieved by the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan, who bowed out of Test cricket at Galle after becoming the first bowler to claim 800 wickets, and the injury to fast bowler Lasith Malinga.
But carrom ball bowler Ajantha Mendis, who was not in the first Test squad but has returned now, can be a handful as he had done well for Sri Lanka Board President`s XI in the warm-up game with a six for 67.
Mendis had tormented India in their last tour of the island nation in 2008 when he grabbed 26 wickets in Sri Lanka`s 2-1 Test series victory. Besides the lack of sting in the pace attack, India`s spin department also got a battering from the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first Test with their most experienced bowler Harbhajan Singh and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha returning wicketless in their 30 and 28 overs respectively.
Harbhajan, who was not 100 per cent fit in the first Test, has apparently recovered fully after his bout of flu and he is expected to lead the spin bowling charge though it is not certain whether leggie Amit Mishra will replace Ojha in the playing eleven.
Mishra was wayward in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka Board President`s XI.
Sri Lanka named another pacer Nuwan Pradeep in place of Malinga though he is not expected to be in the playing XI tomorrow as Dilhara Fernando is likly to share the new ball with Chanaka Welegedara. Angelo Mathews is expected to be the third seamer in the playing eleven tomorrow.
Sangakkara was confident the absence of Muralitharan and Malinga, who claimed 15 of the 20 Indian wickets between them, will not impact on his team`s bowling attack.
"We have bowlers who are looking for a chance to make a mark for themselves. This is their opportunity to prove themselves," said Sangakkara.
The home side batsmen are in fine nick with their top order of Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene coming good in either one of the two innings in the first Test.
The Squads (From):
India: Mahedra Singh Dhoni (Capt; wk), Virender Sehwag (vc), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (Capt), Mahela Jayawardene (vc), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Pradeep, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Thilina Kandamby, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Tharanga Paranavitana, Dammika Prasad, Thilan Samaraweera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Chanaka Welegedara.
Match starts at 10am.