KOLKATA: Played 17. Won 0. Sri Lanka have never won a Test in India, losing 10 and drawing seven. It’s one of the longest droughts in recent cricket history. They have won a Test in South Africa, but India remains their final frontier. As former skipper Kumar Sangakkara had once remarked, “It’s one of my biggest regrets in cricket.”
Startling about the losses was the manner they occurred. While eight saw innings defeats, the remaining two were by a margin of over 180 runs.
“We all know India are No 1 at the moment and their record, especially in Tests, is phenomenal. They have been playing good over the last two years and deserve to be up there. The last series was tough to digest but we, as a team, have learnt and hopefully, we can start putting those in practice,” skipper Dinesh Chandimal said.
The Lankans will play three Tests, the first of which begins on Thursday at Eden Gardens. The last time they toured India for a Test series was in 2009. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since. While Virat Kohli has gone on become the skipper, Sri Lanka have struggled for consistency.
The phrase ‘in transition’ has been used to describe them for some time now. Since losing their heavyweights, they have looked up to the likes of Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath but the team as a whole has flattered to deceive.
Herath, who recently became the second Sri Lankan to take 400 wickets, has not had the best of times against India. Apart from his 7/48 in Galle in 2015, he has struggled. In nine Tests, he has an average of 45.96 and for Sri Lanka’s sake, the 39-year-old must overcome his travails. Chandimal and Mathews have struggled for consistency. Against India, Chandimal managed only 96 runs at an average of 24 while Mathews scored 182 runs at 30.33.
“Obviously, we have not played to our potential. The team has to perform. With the kind of pitch on offer here, we might go for five bowlers and six batters. We need to take 20 wickets and seamers also need to step up, not only Herath. As far as batting is concerned, looking at his experience, Mathews will bat at No 4 and hopefully solidify the top order,” the skipper revealed.
The island nation has had a shambolic 2017 where they have lost 34 of their 48 matches across formats. The only silver lining is that they come into this series on the back of a 2-0 win against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, becoming the only team to record a Test series win over Pakistan at their adopted home.