India vs Sri Lanka 2015: India’s tour game an early indicator of things to come

India will play Sri Lanka Board XI in a three-day tour game starting on August 6.

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Virat Kohli will be eager to start well in Sri Lanka © AFP
Virat Kohli will be eager to start well in Sri Lanka © AFP

As India embark on their tour to Sri Lanka, there will be a lot of eyeballs on how the team performs. Not that it is something new but the verdict from Supreme Court and the IPL spot-fixing judgement has taken attention away from the Indian team touring Sri Lanka. India will begin their tour with a three-day game against Sri Lanka Board XI from August 6, 2015. Nikhil Popat feels the tour game will be an indicator of how India perform on their tour to the island nation. India’s task, of course, will be far from easy and will need individuals to step up.

India have played Sri Lanka 18 times in the island nation, tasting victories just in a mere 4 of them, losing 6 and drawing 8. India have some catch-up to do. India have never won more than a single Test on their tour to Sri Lanka. The last time India won a Test series in Sri Lanka was way back in 1993. The last time India played in Sri Lanka, in 2010, Suresh Raina made his Test debut; it is safe to say his road back in the team is as easy as India’s task in Sri Lanka. Watch video: India tour of Sri Lanka 2015 is a big challenge, says Virat Kohli

India’s issue in Sri Lanka has been their batting on decks which have backed spinners and have had some assistance for pace bowlers. Bats have got thicker and decks have turned flatter but Tests in Sri Lanka have started to yield results, not all of which have been in favour of Sri Lanka. Ever since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, there has been a constant struggle for Sri Lanka to find able spinner to replace him.  It is hard to fill the boots of someone who has taken 800 wickets. Read: Rangana Herath must bounce back against India for Sri Lanka’s benefit

India were troubled by Suraj Randiv, who picked up 11 wickets in two games. India had trouble facing Moeen Ali in England, Nathan Lyon in Australia, both of whom are not quite lethal off-spinners but bowl good lines and lengths. India’s biggest Test on the tour will be the way they play the Sri Lankan spinners. Sri Lanka have Rangana Herath, who is coming off a bad series against his favourite opposition, Pakistan. Dilruwan Perera has been handy for them and Tharindu Kaushal, who made his debut against Pakistan, have also shown promise. India will have to be wary of them, which is why their tour game becomes vital for them to get used to the sticky pitches, which might be two-paced. Read: India vs Sri Lanka 2015: Virat Kohli could opt for 5-bowler strategy

Murali Vijay is doubtful for the first Test due to a hamstring injury, which will be a boon for Shikhar Dhawan who is likely to open with KL Rahul. Dhawan does not quite have the best of techniques against off-spin and will be tested to say the least. Captain Virat Kohli played the India A ‘Test’ against Australia A and got good practice but was not able to achieve the big score. Before leaving for Sri Lanka, Kohli hinted that he may look to attack the spinners. It was an advice given to him by the current India A coach Rahul Dravid. Dravid wanted Kohli to take inspiration from Virender Sehwag who used the aggressive route to defy the spinners. Read: Virat Kohli advised by Rahul Dravid to look at Virender Sehwag innings to prepare for Sri Lanka spinners

Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane play spin well but have been guilty of throwing away crucial starts more often than not. They will want to spend time in the middle with Kohli, who is already hinting about continuing with his five-bowler strategy. Kohli also mentioned about the lower-order contributing with the bat: this time they will have Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh, all of whom are more than handy. But it was the pair of Ashwin and Harbhajan who impressed as a pair in the one-off Test against Bangladesh and they will want to get few overs under their belt and get used to the conditions in Sri Lanka. Poll: India vs Sri Lanka 2015; who should bat at No. 3 for India?

It can also be crucial to see who of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron partners Bhuvneshwar in the team. Umesh and Varun have often being criticized for not having control of the ball and leaking runs and the tour game will be an early indicator of things to come. Also read: Ashwin is optimistic about improving his overseas record

India’s overseas issues are well documented by now. Kohli will want to start a crucial season with some good performances and hope to improve their record in the island nation. India normally do not quite play many tour games but this one will be pivotal to see how India are preparing for what could be their best chance to beat a team which seems to be struggling to find the right combination. 

(Nikhil Popat is a die hard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)

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