Subsequent to the 304-run drubbing by Team India in the opening Test of the three-Test series, Sri Lanka will be desperate to bounce back. The loss also happened to be Sri Lanka’s biggest defeat in the Tests, making it all the more for them to avenge that defeat. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwara Pujara ensured India set a mammoth target of 550 for the hosts, who were reduced to 10-man when their middle-order batsman Asela Gunaratne sustained an injury while fielding in the first innings. To make it worse, during the chase, their stand-in Captain, Rangana Herath, also did not bat due to a minor injury. With both the parties now headed to Colombo for the second Test, Sri Lanka have a positive in the return of their new Test Captain Dinesh Chandimal.
After Sri Lanka lost the limited-overs series to Zimbabwe, their then Skipper Angelo Matthews had stepped down as Sri Lanka’s captain from all formats making way for Chandimal to take the responsibility of Tests. He almost lost his maiden Test in captaincy debut against Zimbabwe before he was ruled out of the Galle Test against India due to pneumonia. That turned out to be a huge blow for the Lankans considering he was the captain but more damage was done with his absence in the top-order as a settled batsman. This can be testified by his innings of 162 not out against India in the Galle Test in 2015 where he had helped overturn a first-innings deficit of 193 and eventually the hosts had won the match.
Chandimal, who joined the club of the few Sri Lankan captains for scoring a Test fifty on captaincy debut, averages 57.60 against India, having played three Tests against these opponents. His return to the side will certainly bolster the confidence of the hosts.
Gunaratne’s innings during the 380-run chase against Zimbabwe in the fourth innings discovered his value as a middle-order batsman. With him out with an injury, Sri Lanka needed a worthy replacement, keeping in mind they are 0-1 down in the series. There were many promising players in line to be picked as Gunaratne’s replacement but Chandimal recalled his good friend, Lahiru Thirimanne, 13 months after he played his last Test. Despite having an experience of 26 Tests, he has failed to live up to his potential and his poor average of 24 illustrates that.
However, Chandimal will have Thirimanne’s recent numbers in the domestic circuit to defend his selection. Also, the middle-order batsman scored a 59 in India’s warm-up match in Colombo, last month. Back in 2013 when Chandimal and Thirimanna were named Sri Lanka’s captain and vice-captain for the first two matches of the ODI series against South Africa, the duo had revealed how far their relationship as teammates went back.
“We’ve been in the same teams since we were about 15. We have a good friendship and we know each other’s games. When I speak about something, he knows exactly what I mean, because we have a very good understanding. As cricketers and now captains, we talk a lot about what needs to happen for us to win games,” Chandimal had said. Four years have passed since then, while Thirimanne had almost been forgotten as a Sri Lankan cricketer until Gunaratne’s injury, Chandimal successfully has climbed the ladder and now is the Test captain of his country. The two have a huge task ahead of them when Sri Lanka clash against the No. 2 Team India to save the leftover pride by winning the Colombo Test.
Hearth, who suffered a sore finger in the Galle test, has been declared fit to go ahead in the second Test. Along with Herath and Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara mostly will make his Test debut. Pushpakumara, who is set to play his 100th First-Class game, which will also be his first Test, has 558 First-Class wickets with 18 10-wicket hauls. It should be a great contest if Sri Lanka goes with three spinners against India’s Jadeja and Ashwin. The Indian spin duo picked up a total of 10 wickets in the Galle Test. Considering the sub-continent conditions being spin friendly, this move from Sri Lanka might do good for them. Of course, they will need their batsmen to fire in order to defend a decent target.