CHENNAI: When India walk out onto the picturesque Pallekele Stadium in Kandy on Saturday, they will be on the cusp of creating history. The numero uno Test side will be aiming to complete a whitewash in an overseas three-Test series for the first time against a depleted Sri Lanka side, staring down the barrel.
India, currently 2-0 ahead, have plenty of scope to try and experiment. With Ravindra Jadeja banned, it will be the perfect opportunity to give Kuldeep Yadav his chance.
Even though Axar Patel has been called up as Jadeja’s replacement, Virat Kohli has already hinted at including the Chinaman in the team’s plans. Having made his debut against Australia in scenic conditions in Dharamshala, a similar setting will wait for the 22-year-old. “Playing his first overseas Test will give Kuldeep a lot of confidence. He is a confident young man, and I’m sure he will be raring to go. With the Lankans already low on confidence, Kuldeep could wreak havoc,” former India spinner Maninder Singh told Express.
“He should have played in the second Test itself, considering the spin-friendly conditions. India would definitely have wrapped up proceedings earlier. Especially with R Ashwin not in his elements, Kuldeep could be the go-to-guy for wickets.”
Kohli, who usually does not believe in too much chopping and changing just for the sake of it, will go with the approach of winning the match comprehensibly. He has already won four Test matches in Sri Lanka, the most by a visiting captain in Sri Lanka in Tests.
The batting department has clicked. With the hosts main weapon, Rangana Herath ruled out, the task could get even more difficult for the Dinesh Chandimal-led side. Barring number 10 and 11, all batsmen have registered a half-century on this tour. Stats speak for themselves — 1,462 runs for just 22 wickets in the series for the visitors. This has cost Lanka nearly 67 runs per wicket.
“All of the batsmen have performed. There were question marks over the opening slot, but both Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund got back into the groove. Kohli also came out of a bad patch and all this bodes well. Hardik Pandya’s has chipped in with quick-fire knocks when required and has picked up wickets. He is slowly realising he belongs to the Test stage as well,” former India batsman Lalchand Rajput said.
What India should try and avoid is the feeling of complacency. The only silver lining for the hosts during the entire series has been the second wicket stand for 191 runs between Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis on Day three of the second Test.
The pair used the sweep shot to a tremendous effect in order to blunt out any threat the Indian spinners possessed. “India let them off the hook in the second Test after enforcing the follow-on. Complacency might have been a factor. They should avoid that. They should continue to play their aggressive brand of cricket and not let the advantage slip. They should hold on to the wining habit,” Maninder said.