KOLKATA: Former Sri Lanka batsman Russel Arnold on Thursday said India's real challenge will be on the road starting with their tour of South Africa in January next year.
"I think it's the right way forward. As I said India have depth. They should look at ways to try and better their game because the real challenge is on the road. And looking at where the two teams are, India trying to do this is probably the right decision," Arnold told reporters when asked about India taking the Sri Lanka series as preparation to the Proteas challenge.
Arnold, part of the commentary panel, was speaking on the sidelines of the India-Sri Lanka first Test which got delayed by four hours due to rain and wet outfield at the Eden Gardens.
India play South Africa in three Tests, six One-Day internationals and three T20s starting January 5 in Cape Town.
Later in 2018, India go to England to play five Tests, three ODIs and three T20s.
Asked on Sri Lanka recovering from the 9-0 drubbing at the hands of India in their own lair before taking on the same opponent, Arnold said: "It is a massive challenge initially for them to forget history because even in the past India has been a very difficult place to travel even fpr better Sri Lankan teams.
"So I think the initial challenge is to forget that. to forget how intimidating India have been in the recent past, or over here in India and focus inside. Try and perform to the best of your own ability and take things forward.
"You got to be realistic of where the two teams are. India are in a very good space. The envy of a lot of other teams because of how good they are and the depth they have. But on the other hand you got to believe that you can do well and initially try and play to your potential."
On out-of-form batsman Kusal Mendis being rested for the series and how does that affect the confidence of a young player like him, Arnold said: "You can go either way. Kusal Mendis has been struggling with his form and the way he has been batting in all formats.
"The last notable innings was the hundred he scored against India. He is a young player and you could also argue gving him a break, to freshen up, to work on any little issues he might have is a good way forward.
"So only time will tell. Sri Lanka have opted for the latter, giving him time to recover. You are on the road and not always do you get the time to focus on little things that may go wrong with your life or even your game."
Arnold backed India all-rounder Hardik Pandya being rested, saying to manage workloads it is necessary.
"Just as Kusal Mendis. Players are on the road all the time, playing all the time so it's good to take a break. In different circumstances Hardik Pandya has been rested. Kusal Mendis is not exactly rested, he has been given an opportunity to refresh himself. In managing your players workloads this decision had to be made," Arnold said.
On Wednesday, Virat Kohli said that fans might be driven away due to overdose of cricket and playing the same opposition twice in three months. Asked the same, Arnold echoed the India skipper.
"It is true because in the past when you are playing one series you looked forward to it. Now you are playing constant cricket and that can become boring and can take the buzz away. But different opposition is what's keeping it alive.
"So when you are playing the same opposition too much and you got to be honest it was a bit predictable, what happened in Sri Lanka. So therefore I can understand what he is exactly trying to say," the former Sri Lanka cricketer said.
On the new high-power committee formed by Sri Lanka cricket to arrest the recent slump in form, Arnold said it is needed as the transition after the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara resigned has not worked so far.
"In Sri Lanka, the fault in not only the Indian series but over the last year or so, you have to make a few changes. Because the transition is not working.
Hence senior cricketers and respectable people in cricket have been put together to come with ideas that can be implemented to make a change. There is nothing wrong with it in the sense, yes it hasn't worked got to look for something different and that's what they are doing," Arnold said.