Following the recent announcement by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), later this month, India will be travelling to the island nation for their first ever full bilateral tour since 2008, involving fixtures in all three formats.
India’s last tour of Sri Lanka was two years ago when they played only a three-match Test series and registered their maiden series triumph in Lanka. It was Kohli’s first high-profile assignment as a full-time Test skipper of India. The fact that the young Indian team went into the series as underdogs and they showed a lot character to bounce back and claim the series 2-1 after losing the first match, earned a lot of admiration from the cricket fraternity across the world.
However, the significance of the upcoming tour is going to be completely different.
Following eight back to back series triumphs, India are currently at the top of the ICC Test rankings. They are a dominant force in limited-overs formats as well. In fact, this time Sri Lanka will be the underdogs. Meanwhile, despite all these credentials, Kohli’s boys will be under intense scrutiny, thanks to their rigid off the field approach regarding the appointment of team’s head coach.
The unceremonious farewell of coach Anil Kumble following an immensely successful one-year tenure with the team has not gone too well with the Indian cricket fraternity. Kohli and Co. faced severe criticisms from the media and fans for literally forcing Kumble to withdraw his name from the list of applicants, who have applied for the prestigious position.
In fact, the situation is as such that the players have reportedly persuaded the concerned board officials and the three-member (Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman) Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) who are responsible for selecting the most suitable person to handle this position, to appoint a coach literally of their choice. The new coach will take charge ahead of the Sri Lanka tour and unconfirmed sources suggest that Ravi Shastri is going to be the most likely person to replace Kumble.
So, Kohli and Co. is getting what they want and now there will be hard to find excuses to defend any poor show in the coming assignments, starting from the challenging tour of Sri Lanka.
Ideal preparations for India?
According to the schedule announced by SLC, India will commence the tour with the all-important three-Test series, with the first match starting at Galle on July 26, exactly 17 days after team’s return from the back to back limited-overs tours of England and West Indies. The next two Test matches will be played in Colombo (SSC) and Pallekele from August 3 to 7 and 12 to 16 respectively. Finally, in the limited-overs leg of the tour, both teams will lock horns in five One-Day Internationals and a maiden T20 International to be played between August 20 and September 6.
Interestingly, before the start of the Test series, no warm-up game for the Indian team has been announced so far. Taking on Sri Lanka in their own backyards, that too without any practice game – this, we cannot exactly term as the ideal preparation for the No.1 ranked Test team heading into a tough series, especially when the players have played a lot of white-ball cricket of late.
Sri Lanka may rank No. 7 in Test cricket right now, but at home, they are always a tough nut to crack. India have recently got a taste of the kind of talent this young Sri Lankan team possesses in the ICC Champions Trophy game at the Oval. Maybe it was in a different format, but the kind of enthusiasm the Lankans showed to outclass their most fancied neighbour, was truly sensational. If they can put up a similar kind of eagerness in the coming series, we can be assured to have an interesting month and a half.