Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
December 2 to 6, 09:30 IST
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The main picture
We have had about eight days of cricket in this Test series, considering the early finish in Nagpur and the overs lost because of bad light and rain in Kolkata, and the series scoreline might well read 2-0 if not for a premature end to the fifth day at the Eden Gardens. Essentially, over the course of this series, we have been reminded of the massive drop in Sri Lanka’s standards and quality and the consequent gulf between them and their hosts (India). We go into the third Test in Delhi with it not being a dead rubber but its result largely predictable. Because, again, in a five-day match, India, as they showed in Kolkata, are capable of recovering even from a dire situation and turning the tables on not just their current visitors but pretty much any team.
We can sympathise with Sri Lanka but time and again they baffle us. The leading batsmen (Dimuth Karunaratne and Angelo Mathews, in particular) who are not short on experience aren’t scoring runs, being of no value to the team whatsoever; Rangana Herath becomes half the spinner he is when he goes up against the Indian batsmen, though the Sri Lankan bowlers, on the whole, have not been culpable so far on this tour, and as a team, Dinesh Chandimal and co. are too docile to bother the No. 1-ranked India.
For the third Test, Sri Lanka might well make changes in personnel and the team management will hope that the replacements transform the morale and performance of the side. Chandimal has been in good batting form so far, scoring 166 runs in four innings, and he needs to go a step further and score a century. If one batsman makes a three-figure score, the team naturally have a chance to at least post 300.
One spot that will be discussed heavily is Dasun Shanaka’s. The Sri Lankan team management must decide if they want to bolster their bowling or batting. Roshen Silva, who boasts an impressive first-class batting record and has yet to play international cricket, will be a good option. Ideally, Sri Lanka must reinforce the batting line-up because their troubles lie in the batting department. Batting collapses have become a familiar sight and not one batsman, other than captain Chandimal, has been solid. To avoid another defeat of any scale, Sri Lanka need the leading personnel in the batting and bowling departments to put their hand up.
India, contrary to popular expectation, have named a largely unchanged squad for the third Test match. And so, they are likely to stick with the winning combination from Nagpur. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will return only for the ODI series, which starts on December 10, while the team management will have to decide if the returning Shikhar Dhawan is restored to the playing XI.
We were also told that Mohammed Shami was left out of the second Test because he had a niggle. Shami is, along with Bhuvneshwar, one of India’s leading pace bowlers and will be crucial to India’s chances of winning the Test series in South Africa. So, from that viewpoint, you cannot leave him out of the second-last match before the New Year’s Test in Cape Town on January 5. India are well-stocked in the batting and bowling departments and will seek continuity in the capital.
The Feroz Shah Kotla last hosted a Test match back in December 2015, when South Africa chose to block their way to a draw (which they couldn’t manage eventually), facing 143.1 overs and scoring only 143 runs, only to lose by 337 runs in the end. That pitch was on the slower side and expect the pitch to be typically slow for the third India v Sri Lanka Test. The weather forecast says that all five days should be sunny, pleasant and bright. But amid the rapidly dipping air quality and pollution in Delhi, the play schedule might well be hampered.
IND: WDWWW (last five Tests, from left to right)
3rd Test: India vs Sri Lanka playing XI
Team India might well stick with the Murali Vijay-Lokesh Rahul opening pair, while Mohammed Shami is likely to replace Umesh Yadav and partner Ishant Sharma. The rest of the XI is likely to be the same. The following team combination will give India a chance to test out the eleven they will probably field in South Africa, where they will also include one less spinner.
Possible India playing 11 for the third Test: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Murali Vijay, 3 Lokesh Rahul, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Ravichandran Ashwin, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 10 Mohammed Shami, and 11 Ishant Sharma
For Sri Lanka, Roshen Silva might well make his Test debut but he may not be the only player to come into the line-up for the Delhi Test. The visitors may contemplate bringing in Vishwa Fernando for Lahiru Gamage, who has not been bad but not managed to complement Suranga Lakmal. Sadeera Samarawickrama has failed at the top of the order in both the Tests, but will probably be retained.
Update: Rangana Herath has been ruled out of the Delhi Test due to a sore back. He has been replaced in the Sri Lankan squad by Jeffrey Vandersay, who has yet to play Test cricket. In Herath’s place, Lakshan Sandakan might get the nod for the third Test.
Possible Sri Lanka playing XI: 1 Dinesh Chandimal (c), 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Roshen Silva, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Suranga Lakmal, and 11 Vishwa Fernando
The Sri Lankan batsmen need to raise their game and put a price on their wickets. The bowling attack is still pretty good and with runs on the board, Lakmal and co. will be able to rediscover their potency. With the batting line-up misfiring, Sri Lanka are better off bowling first. That way, they will give themselves a better chance of competing against India. And under these circumstances, Sri Lanka should feel happy as long as they avoid being overrun.