GALLE: Indian batsmen have done their homework and will not allow Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath to wreck them again at Galle, captain Virat Kohli said on the eve of the first Test between the neighbours on Tuesday.
The burly left-arm spinner claimed seven wickets in the fourth innings to derail India’s 176-run chase in the last Test they played at Galle in 2015.
India went on to win the next two matches to clinch the series 2-1 and Kohli said his team have learnt their lesson from that series.
“He is a quality bowler. Last time, he really dented us in that small chase,” Kohli said of Herath, who will lead Sri Lanka in the series opener, starting on Wednesday, in the absence of ailing regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal.
“It was actually a great eye-opener for us. We worked on those things in the next two games and were able to win the series. He played both the games and the ball was still doing a bit but our batsmen had counter-plans in place.”
Herath managed eight wickets in the remaining four innings as the Indians appeared to have found a way to deal with Sri Lanka’s spin spearhead.
“We understand what he brings to the table and we understand what needs to be done,” Kohli said.
“I’m sure everyone is taking personal responsibility to plan their innings… We’ve come a long way from that tour. We believe our batsmen will deliver the goods when it’s required.”
While Sri Lanka will miss Chandimal, who is recovering from pneumonia, India will be without regular opener Lokesh Rahul, who is down with high fever.
Kohli ruled out any experiment and suggested Abhinav Mukund will join Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the innings and said all-rounder Hardik Pandya could make his Test debut in the first match of the three-Test series.
“We got great balance in the side. We got a guy like Hardik Pandya who is a wicket-taking bowler. Every game he plays, on any surface, he has a knack of picking up wickets. He has a great chance of playing.”
The traditional Galle wicket tends to help spin bowlers and very rarely does a game here go to the fifth day. But the track prepared for the game has a nice layer of grass cover and a high-scoring game could be expected if it goes the distance.
Despite their recent form, the Sri Lankans will take heart from their 3-0 win over Australia last year. The Aussies arrived in Sri Lanka in 2016 as the world’s No. 1-ranked team but struggled against the spin bowlers. “We have nothing to lose and we will look to the Australian series to gain inspiration,” Herath said. “In that series also we were in a similar situation whereas Australia were ranked No. 1.”
However, Herath also sounded a bit concerned how his young team would fare against the mighty Indians who have been beaten only once since the 2015 Galle Test.
“They are the number one team at the moment and are playing very good cricket,” said the 39-year-old. “This is an interesting and challenging series. We need to do something special.”
SRI LANKA (from): Rangana Herath (captain), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Malinda Pushpakumara, Nuwan Pradeep.
INDIA: Virat Kohli (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan.
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford (Australia) and Richard Illingworth (England) TV Umpire: Rod Tucker (Australia).
Match Referee: Richie Richardson (West Indies).
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2017