India in Sri Lanka: Sangakkara’s farewell match will be a big test of India’s aggression

They lost the first Test from a position of utter dominance. Their batsmen faltered against spin, again. They have lost one of their in-form batsman for the series. They are 1-0 down and trying to avoid a series loss. They are up against a team who is preparing to give its beloved son a grand send-off.
It doesn’t get tougher than this for India as they take on Sri Lanka in the 2nd Test at P Sara Oval, Colombo.
India squandered a glorious chance to take the lead at Galle and now face an uphill task at Colombo. India captain Virat Kohli didn’t sugarcoat his team’s loss, saying the players batted tentatively and paid the price for it. When they should have been positive, they went into their shells intead.
Following the loss, Team Director Ravi Shastri said that India would continue to adopt an aggressive approach. “Let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice, because we will not change our style of play. Our mindset will be the same.” Shastri told reporters. “The endeavour of this team is to play fearless cricket that comes with mindset. These boys have enough talent.”
While they may have enough talent, they certainly struggle against spin. Fifteen of the 20 India batsmen fell to Sri Lanka’s spinners in the first Test and this is a big worry for the visitors. First it was Moeen Ali, then Nathan Lyon and now Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal have tormented the Indian batsmen. The key to India’s chances will depend on how well they play spin.
Ahead of the Test India have received mixed news. first Test centurion Shikhar Dhawan has been ruled out of the tour with a hand injury but it seems as if Murali Vijay – who missed the first Test due to a hamstring injury – might return to the starting eleven. It seemed as if India missed the calmness of Vijay in Galle and his return will be a welcome boost. KL Rahul will most likely open with Vijay. Rahul didn’t have the best of times and will want to make amends.
It is also a critical game for Rohit Sharma who failed yet again with scores of 9 and 4. His last ten international innings on Sri Lankan soil read – 0,11,5,5,0,0,4,4,9,4. He needs to reward the faith shown in him by team management, especially with Cheteshwar Pujara waiting in the wings should Rohit fail again.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra were the pick of the bowlers in the last match while Harbhajan Singh had a drab game. P Sara Oval curator Dilip Wickramasinghe told Cricket Next that there will be grass on the track and it might assist seamers in first session of most days. It will be good for batting for first three days and then start spinning. In the last two years, the pacers have done slightly better compared to the spinners at the P Sara Oval. The spinner have averaged 30.64 with a strike rate of 62 while the pacers have averaged 27.85 with a strike rate of 57.1.
So it will be interesting to see if Kohli drops Harbhajan for Stuart Binny and also whether he brings in Umesh Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of Varun Aaron, who was pretty mediocre in the last game.
India have also been studying video’s of Dinesh Chandimal’s batting to figure out a plan against him Chandimal employed a host of sweeps and reverse sweeps in making a match-turning 162 in the second innings in Galle and his battle with India’s spinners will be an interesting one.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka have the added distraction, or added motivation, of this being Kumar Sangakkara’s farewell Test. “We will definitely go for the kill,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said. “Sangakkara deserves the best possible farewell and only a win can do that. There is so much to play for in this Test.”
But for that, their batsmen will have to step up. Apart from Chandimal – who scored 59 and that scintillating 162 – none of the batsmen put up significant scores. There were lots of 40s – Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimann and Jehan Mubarak looked good in the second innings but couldn’t carry on. The key to their line-up continues to be Mathews, who scored 64 in the first innings in the last Test and has been in rich vein of form over the last few years.
Sangakkara will obviously want to leave on a high but his his last six innings has made 40, 5, 0, 34, 8, and 50 (in order of most recent scores first). The fairytale scenario would be if he follows in the footsteps of Aravinda de Silva and becomes just the second Sri Lankan to score a century in his last Test, and Sri Lanka win the Test and the series.
India can take heart from the fact that the last time they visited this venue they managed to save the series thanks to a half-fit VVS Laxman’s heroics, which gave them a five-wicket win. In all, India have won one, lost two and drawn one of their four matches at this venue. That Sri Lanka have lost three of their last four games at this venue will also give India heart (though the home side beat Pakistan last month).
The atmosphere will be different compared to earlier matches. Emotions will be running high. Crowds will throng to the stadium to get a last glimpse of their hero. Music will flood the stadium, creating a carnival-like atmosphere.