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 great Indian dream of a series win on foreign soil starts all over again as Saurav Ganguly and his men prepare to take on Sri Lanka in the first of the three-Test matches on Tuesday.India's last series win on foreign soil came against Sri Lanka in 1993-94, and the Indians would be hoping that the island nation proves a lucky destination for them again.The task is extremely tough though, with the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and V V S Laxman severely affecting the batting strength of the Indians. Ashish Nehra, who has been the most effective of Indian bowlers in the last two series, is also out due to injury.Besides, the Sri Lankans have developed into a very balanced side in the last couple of years and are a formidable force on their home turf.The young Indian side will also have to leave behind the disappointment of the recently concluded triangular One-day series where they were defeated in the final by the hosts for their eighth consecutive loss in a final match. The onus will obviously be on the senior members of the team to not only lead by example but also motivate the youngsters to play to their potential. Ganguly has been under fire for his dubious performances on and off the field but the captain will need to put aside all controversies to focus on the goal. In the absence of Tendulkar, he is probably the most charismatic member of the team and his performance would be vital for the team's chances as would that of his deputy Rahul Dravid who has been the most consistent of Indian batsmen in recent times. Dravid is a totally transformed batsman after that magical knock in the Kolkata Test against the Australians. He has proved he is quite capable of playing the big knocks and he would be required to come up with exactly those on this trying tour. The 40s and 50s just may not be enough.Apart from Ganguly and Dravid, the most experienced batsmen in the Indian side are openers Shiv Sunder Das and Sadgopan Ramesh. The duo, who till the other day were being seen as part of the young brigade and getting the benefit of doubt for their mistakes, would suddenly find themselves shouldering a majority of the responsibility with their performance under more critical watch than ever. The score of youngsters in the team have a godsend opportunity to prove their credentials and seal a permanent berth in the side. Hemang Badani, Mohd Kaif, Dinesh Mongia and Jacob Martin would be under watch as they take on the likes ofMuthiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. And therein would lie the test of their skill and patience.With the veteran duo of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad back in business, the Indians should not have much worries in the bowling department despite the absence of Nehra. They bowled beautifully in the only warm-up game against the Board President's XI thus proving that they hadn't put any rust during their absence from international cricket.The pitch at the Premadasa Stadium here is reported to be favourable to fast bowling and with Zaheer Khan also in the side, the Indian attack seems quite potent. Harbhajan Singh has become India's main strike bowler in the last few months and has led the spin attack admirably in the absence of Anil Kumble. With Muralitharan leading the charge for the other team, Harbhajan would have the ideal inspiration and the battle royale between two of the finest exponents of classical off spin promises to be one of the highlights of this series. The Sri Lankans have a more balanced side with a fine blend of youth and experience. Sanath Jayasuriya has been an awe-inspiring leader and his performance is enough to spur on the youngsters in the side. The veteran left-hander Hashan Tillekaratne, who has been recalled to the national side after two years, is expected to lend the much-needed solidity to the middle order in the absence of Aravinda De Silva. Sri Lanka is likely to play with a debutant opener Michael Vandort on Tuesday. The left-hander has shown a lot of promise and cracked a century for Board President's XI in the three-day match.With Marvan Atapattu, Russel Arnold and Mahela Jayawardene certain to play on Tuesday, the hosts have a strong batting line-up. There is a toss-up between RomeshKaluwitharana and Kumar Sangakkara for the wicket-keeper's slot with the former being the front-runner because of his batting capabilities. Sri Lankas bowling has been boosted by the good performance of Dilhara Fernando who is the quickest of the Sri Lankan medium pacers. Fernando is almost a certainty to pair Vaas as the new ball bowler.There is a three-way fight for the third seamer's slot between Suresh Perera, Ruchira Perera and Dulip Liyanage and a final decision is expected only on Tuesday.PTI

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