Even before the first ball is bowled in Nagpur, India already seem to have won 20 percent of the match. The last one and a half hours of play at the Eden Gardens, where the Lankans were jolted by repeated strikes from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami must have dented Sri Lanka’s confidence. As they say, ‘half the battle is won in the mind’, India having managed to swing the momentum on its side, will start as favourites.
Likely changes in both sides
With heroes of the 1st test, Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar unavailable for the 2nd test due to personal reasons, Murli Vijay and Ishant Sharma seem natural replacements respectively. If India thinks of going in with 6 specialist batsmen, it makes a case for Rohit Sharma but it seems improbable at the moment.
For Sri Lanka, Dasun Shanaka was good with the ball but failed to impress with the bat at Eden Gardens. Moreover, Chandimal’s assessment that the Nagpur pitch will assist the spinners on day 4 and 5 makes a strong case for the selection of chinaman Lakshan Sandakan in his place.
The Lankan pacer Lahiru Gamage was also all over the place in the 1st test. He failed to maintain the pressure that was created by Lakmal from his end. He may have to make way for left arm pacer Vishwa Fernando.
The Nagpur pitch
The Vidarbha cricket Association Stadium at Nagpur, to say the least, has not been the most popular venue in the recent times. In the last test match that India played on this ground against South Africa in 2015, the International Cricket Council (ICC) gave the rank turner a ‘poor’ rating.
Conventionally the pitch is not known to be a batting paradise and favours both medium pace and spin. With a thicker covering of grass this time, the pitch is expected to favour the quicks a little more.
Areas India need to look at
Though India fought back mighty well on the last two days of the Kolkata test, it is not to assume that there are no troubles in its camp. Apart from Dhawan, Rahul and Kohli, the Indian batting did not really click in both the innings.
The prime cause of concern is the form of vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane who for some strange reason has not been playing well at home. In his last 12 innings in India, Rahane has scored 722 runs at a below power average of a shade over 36. The Mumbaikar has managed just one century and 3 half centuries.
Sri Lanka’s batting trouble
On the other side, the Lankans have to plug loopholes in their batting order if they plan to give a tough fight to India at Nagpur. The problem is that there seem to be too many bits and pieces players in the Lankan line up.
The delaying tactics of the Lankan wicket keeper Niroshan Dickwella have been much talked about over the past 3-4 days. Theatrics and unconventional shot making are good for a short span but one has to have a proper defense in order to make a mark at the test level which Dickwella seems to lack.
Sadeera Samarawickrama too, looked threatening in Kolkata but did not have the game to occupy the crease for long. Angelo Matthews and Chandimal who got a half century a piece in the first innings of the Kolkata test are the two batsmen that Sri Lanka heavily relies on. If either of the two succeeds in producing daddy hundreds, we have a match in our hands in Nagpur.
Likely Indian XI: Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha(wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav
Likely Sri Lanka XI: Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal(c), Lakshan Sandakan, Niroshan Dickwella(wk), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal