Colombo: Having broken gaol in the second Test, escaping the
restraining order Sri Lanka had served at the SSC, India will look for
a clean getaway in the third — perhaps not as fancy as the ones that
involve cars careening around corners, sirens in tow, but a sound one
all the same.
The prize involved — only India’s second Test series win in five
trips across the Palk Straits — is worth staking everything on. Few
sides defeat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka; fewer still come back from behind
to accomplish it.
“In terms of confidence, in terms of strategy, we have done whatever
we can to ensure we win the Test and the series,” Anil Kumble, the
Indian captain, said on Thursday.Formidable leader
Kumble has proven a formidable leader, fashioning a Test side of
quality and experience in his spirit: unyielding, combative, resilient.
Before leaving to be with his ailing mother, Gary Kirsten, India’s
coach, spoke of how the Indian team had regrouped after the
innings-and-239-run defeat in the first Test — of how Kumble’s hurt had
filtered to the rest of the side, supplying the men with the tonic they
so badly required.
The enormity of the task entrusted to Kumble befits his stature:
India has gone long without stringing two Test wins together, last
achieving this in 2005, when it defeated Sri Lanka at Delhi and
Ahmedabad; only once has India battled back from a 0-1 deficit to win a
“We’ve done that once against Australia in 2001, if I remember
right, having been down one-nil," said Kumble. “That was in India.
These are different conditions and all of us are looking forward to the
The P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, which will host the third Test at no
charge to the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, lends itself to the
contemplation of such heady thoughts. Not only does it enclose the
country’s best cricket wicket (whose firmness some of the Indians
ascertained by leaning on it on all fours), it possesses a rich history.
Sir Donald Bradman and the Invincibles were here in 1948. Evidence
can be found in the tastefully done-up bar beside the pavilion. A sepia
print of the Don, sola topi and rimmed spectacles, walking to the
centre with Mahadevan Sathasivam, revered here as the finest of all
time, is a reminder of the great deeds that have been enacted here.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, was part of a recent
one, scoring a century in the fourth-innings pursuit of 352 against
South Africa in 2006. “That was a historical win for us. (But) this is
going to be an interesting one, with everything to play for, after we
have felt each other out in the first two.”One change each likely
The sides will make a change each. Kumble said Parthiv Patel will
replace Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps, thus ending a morning of
intrigue, which began during the warm-up game of touch rugby when
Karthik and Patel leapt covetously for the same ball and wound up
embracing each other.
Sri Lanka, stung by Ishant Sharma at Galle, is intent on sharpening
its cutting edge. Either Thilan Thushara, the left-armer, or Dammika
Prasad, who impressed against the Indians in the warm-up match, will
play in Nuwan Kulasekara’s place. Both, Jayawardene said, “have good
It will be interesting to see how Ajantha Mendis bowls on this
strip. Both at the SSC and at the Galle International Stadium, he
benefited from his under-cut carom ball skidding through. Will the
delivery retain its menace on a strip that offers bounce?Better suited
India’s bowling unit appears better stocked to handle the surface.
It should suit Ishant’s natural length. Both Harbhajan Singh, who at
Galle claimed his first ten-for outside India, and Kumble, who hasn’t
been at his best this series, enjoy bowling on such surfaces. Zaheer
Khan managed movement off the track at the pan-flat SSC; he will like
the grass cover, which even if shaved will provide traction.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir showed at Galle that Muttiah
Muralitharan and Mendis could be tamed. But their illustrious
colleagues didn’t press the advantage. The famed Indian middle-order
enters the third Test with just one half-century (V.V.S. Laxman’s) in
Jayawardene reckoned his side had bowled well, ratcheting up the
pressure to curtail the starts India’s batting stars had made. Kumble
wasn’t concerned. “It’s great that we won a Test match pretty
comfortably without them getting runs,” he said. “If they score the
runs that are due, things will be fine.”
The sides (from):
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Michael Vandort, Malinda
Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan,
Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha
Mendis, Thilan Thushara, Dammika Prasad, Chamara Kapugedera, Chamara
Silva, and Nuwan Kulasekara.
India: Anil Kumble (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul
Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Parthiv Patel
(wk), Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma, R.P.
Singh, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, and Dinesh Karthik.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen and Mark Benson; Television umpire: Billy Doctrove; Match referee: Alan Hurst.
Hours of play (IST): 10.15 a.m. to 12.15 p.m., 12.55 p.m. to 2.55 p.m., and 3.15 p.m. till close.