The SSC stadium is one of the most historically significant places in Colombo. It used to be an aerodrome used by the allied nations during the internecine World Wars before it became one of the finest cricket venues around the world.
Historically, the 22 yards of this venue always plays a pivotal role in the match and the series as well. A few exceptions like the India-Sri Lanka test match in 2010, where Tendulkar made a double hundred, Raina scored a blistering hundred on debut, and both the teams scored a plethora of runs, the pitch in SSC, Colombo, usually favours the bowlers.
Although the smiling assassin Muttiah Muralidharan took a lion’s share of his wickets in this ground, the pitch curator has been preparing pitches that are conducive to pace bowling, for years. Cricket fiends would still remember the impeccable spell of Chaminda Vaas against the West Indies that gave him 8 wickets for 19 runs. Ironically Vaas is the current bowling coach of the Sri Lankan side and their entire pace battery will rely on the invaluable experience and wisdom of the quondam pace spearhead.
Until now, the pitch has been the cynosure of this match because of its lush green appearance. The Lankans are probably looking for a way out from the bludgeoning of the Indian batsmen and chicaneries of the spin twin. Traditionally every team follows a thumb rule of giving fast lively wickets to trouble the formidable Indian batting order although under current circumstances, with Suranga Lakmal ruled out hors de combat, that doesn’t seem like an achievable outcome.
As far as the squads are concerned, the elegant southpaw Lahiru Thirmanne has replaced the gravely injured middle order batsman Asela Gunaratne. Thirmanne was included alongside the left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan. If Sandakan makes his way to the final eleven, he might be tested against arguably the best batting unit against spin. The thought process of the Sri Lankan team management seems a little obfuscated regarding the inclusion of Sandakan as there are three more quality spinners in the squad and the pitch is most likely to succour seam bowling. They might be considering him as an alternative recourse lest Rangana Herath doesn’t pass the fitness test.
Captain Dinesh Chandimal is also making his way to the final eleven being recuperated fully from his injuries. His inclusion is likely to bolster the Lankan middle order. Their team badly needs some swashbuckling derring-do from his willow to turn things around.
As far as India are concerned, the only conundrum they will be facing is regarding the opening slot. Lokesh Rahul has convalesced from his ailment and is in fine touch. On the other hand, both Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund made significant contributions in the previous game. Furthermore, their bowling combination might also change according to the final state of the pitch. As per the Indian skipper’s statement, the practice pitches with less grass covering are also assisting fast bowling. At least for the first two hours, the seamers might make inroads into the opposition batting unit.
Sri Lanka is currently in a situation that can elicit the best from every member of their team. Whether they will be able do that or not, we are going to find out in a few hours.
India: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), Ajinkya Rahane, 6 R Ashwin, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R. Ashwin, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Mohammed Shami
Sri Lanka: 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Lahiru Thirmanne, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Lahiru Kumara, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Photo by Kesara Rathnayake (kesara.lk)