Chennai: After nearly five weeks of what some still call pyjama cricket, it's back to flannels. Conventional cricket, in other words, but there’s bound to be a one-day hangover as both India and Sri Lanka haven’t played Test cricket for months.
That, then, is the backdrop for the three-Test Videocon Cup ' scheduled to get underway at the Chepauk on Friday. In the backdrop, too, is the threat of a cyclone-influenced disruption.
It was overcast throughout Thursday and there wasn’t much sunshine on the previous days either. Given that the groundstaff hasn’t had an extended opportunity to prepare the wicket, the Lankans are a trifle wary. On record, though, coach Tom Moody said it looks “good.”
The wicket, incidentally, was prepared for last week’s ODI against South Africa. Owing to rain, not a ball was bowled. Traditionally, Chepauk offers something for everybody: Bounce and turn for the bowlers, conducive for the batsmen as well.
While the wicket shouldn’t really challenge, at least not early on, switching from a one-day mode to Test cricket may make a heavy demand. The team which does so without missing a step ought to start with an appreciable advantage.
Of course, limited overs cricket is very different, but it’s unlikely that the Lankans have recovered from a 1-6 thrashing in the ODI series which ended three weeks ago. “We played really good cricket to shut them out, but that’s no guarantee that we will win the Test series, too... We’ve got to continue with good cricket,” pointed out Rahul Dravid.
Dravid, by the way, is going to be leading India as full-fledged Test captain for the first time and remarked he would be “looking for guidance” from the seniors. As he put it, very honestly: “I can’t do everything on my own...”
Wife Vijeta and little Samit will be cheering for him.
What’s also going to be challenging for Lanka is that only four players ' Atapattu, vice-captain Chaminda Vaas, Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralidharan (whose in-laws are here) ' haven’t ever played Tests before in India.
In fact, the last Test series featuring Lanka was eight years ago.
Dravid didn’t announce the XI, but The Telegraph learns that both Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman ' overlooked for the 12 ODIs versus Lanka and South Africa ' would make the line-up.
The in-form Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif will have to sit out, unless the former gets accommodated if Virender Sehwag can’t play owing to a “slight left shoulder strain.”
Assuming Sehwag is fit, he and Gautam Gambhir are to be followed by the captain, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav and Laxman. After eight months, Sachin gets the chance to have another go at a 35th century.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is hours from his Test debut and the bowling is expected to be in the hands of Anil Kumble (he, too, didn’t feature in the ODIs) and Harbhajan Singh; Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan.
Given that he got picked as an allrounder, Sourav can have a double role. Dravid indicated as much during an interaction with the Media.
The Lankans are looking at options and with veteran Sanath Jayasuriya ‘relegated’ to domestic cricket, rookie opener Upul Tharanga may get capped. He was in the ODI squad.
India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble.
Sri Lanka (from): Maravan Atapattu, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Chaminda Vaas, Fervez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralidharan, Lasith Malinga, Avishka Gunawardene, Malinga Bandara, Sanjeeva Weerakoon, Jehan Mubarak.
Umpires: Daryl Harper, Mark Benson. TV: K. Hariharan.
Match Referee (expected): Clive Lloyd.
Match starts: 9.30 am.