Thatscricket - News - India takes on Lanka in first of three Tests on Tuesday

Published: Thursday, August 2, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Galle: The unusual sight of a grassy, hard wicket left rivals India and Sri Lanka biting their nails ahead of the first cricket Test starting here on Tuesday.In the Indian sub-continent where the slow, barren tracks have usually had fast bowlers fuming, the green-top at the Galle international stadium provided a pleasant surprise. The batsmen, however, were far from amused. "I have never seen so much grass on this wicket," said Sanath Jayasuriya, the Sri Lankan captain and opening batsman. "Frankly, I don't know how it will behave. But there will certainly be something in it for the seamers."Indian coach John Wright was equally taken aback. "It's a very interesting wicket, maybe not the greenest around, but quite a change from what we have seen in the sub-continent in the past," he said.Of the five Test matches played in this southern coastal town, Sri Lanka won three on the strength of its spinners, led by the redoubtable Muthiah Murlitharan. The off spinner will now be the only specialist slow bowler for the hosts, as a three-man seam attack of Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and, possibly, Ruchira Perera is unleashed on the injury-hit Indians.India, looking to win its first series away from home since 1993, will take the field without its two main batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and Venkatsai Laxman, and two frontline bowlers, Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra. All four are injured, giving Sri Lanka the edge in its bid to win a home series for the first time in two years.Jayasuriya was knocked cold by a rising ball from Ravindra Pushpakumara on the equally-green practice wicket and sat out rubbing ice on his swollen right ear as teammates trained in the centre."Oh it is nothing," he said of the injury. "I look forward to batting out there in the middle."Jayasuriya has reason to feel comfortable about the Indian attack. It was against them he hammered 340 when Sri Lanka piled up a world record score of 952-6 during the 1997 series.The Indians were relieved that pace spearhead Javagal Srinath was back, after opting out of the recent One-day triangular, to lead the attack on a wicket tailor-made for him. Like the Sri Lankans, the Indians too will play three seamers in Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad and just one spinner, Harbhajan Singh.Mohammad Kaif and Hemang Badani, who have played just one Test each, will replace Tendulkar and Laxman in a batting line-up that relies heavily on skipper Ganguly and his deputy Rahul Dravid for experience."We can't do anything about players not here," skipper Saurav Ganguly said. "Who knows, a star may be born here. It's a big chance for everyone to show their worth."The Indian captain believes a fine Test match is in the offing. "The wicket will help both bat and ball and should provide for some good cricket."India (likely): Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Sunder Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Mohammad Kaif, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Sameer Dighe, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh.Sri Lanka (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Hashan Tillekaratne, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Chaminda Vaas, Suresh Perera, Dilhara Fernando, Muthiah Muralitharan, Ruchira Perera, Michael Vandort.Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Asoka De Silva (Sri Lanka)Match referee: Cammie Smith (West Indies)

Copyright AFP 2001


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