Third Test Preview | India hopes for maiden whitewash over Sri Lanka
Kandy: With the three-match Test Cricket series already in the bag, a ruthless India will aim to continue their domination in the third match, beginning here on Saturday, as they eye a whitewash over the hosts for the first time.
Virat Kohli's men have vanquished the Islanders in the first two Tests, posting easy wins through all-round performances.
In the first Test at Galle, India registered a 304-run triumph, while in the second Test at Colombo, the size of victory became bigger -- an innings and 53 runs. The second Test also witnessed India defeating Sri Lanka by a margin of an innings in Sri Lanka for the first time.
If India win the third Test, they will win nine Tests in Sri Lanka, the most by a visiting side.
The gulf in quality between the sides has been huge. While India boast a squad of settled personnel who are competing for the last two to three years and are on top of their game, the Sri Lanka side is looking thin on international pedigree post the retirement of some of their biggest players.
Coming into the third Test, to be played at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Sri Lanka have been weakened by injuries to veteran spinner Rangana Herath, pacer Nuwan Pradeep and all-rounder Asela Gunaratne. Especially, Herath's absence, due to back stiffness, will give a headache to skipper Dinesh Chandimal.
The home bowling line-up has failed to curb the Indian batting. The visitors have piled 600 plus scores twice in the first two Tests, with the runs coming from all the batters.
Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara have all been among the runs. Moreover, the lower order too has contributed handsomely.
At least one change in the visiting side is guaranteed due to the suspension of Ravindra Jadeja, who has collected six demerit points inside a 24-month period.
The world's top-ranked all-rounder and bowler Jadeja has played a crucial role in putting India on top in the two previous Tests. He has taken as many as 13 wickets and scored 85 runs as he and his fellow slow-bowling partner Ravichandran Ashwin have tormented the Sri Lankans.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel has been named in the squad for the match. But left-arm wrist (chinaman) spinner Kuldeep Yadav seems to be the front-runner to take the position of Jadeja.
The 22-year-old Uttar Pradesh talent was impressive in his only Test till date -- against Australia in March in Dharamsala, picking up four wickets. If fielded, it will be another great opportunity for him to showcase his precocity against a side clearly low on confidence.
Sri Lanka have scored more than 300 runs in only one innings in the first Two Tests and going by that it will be another uphill task for the home batters.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis cracked hundreds in the second innings of the second Test and that will help them gain some confidence since runs coming among the top-order batsmen are crucial. Experienced middle-order batsmen Angelo Mathews (167 runs) and Dinesh Chandimal (82) need to shoulder responsibility for Sri Lanka to avoid another rout.
The bowling line-up is too thin on experience sans Herath, a veteran of 83 Tests. Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera (19 Tests), all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva (10) and left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara (1) will share the bowling duties.
Fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage have been added to the squad.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (Captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Gamage, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Lakshan Sandakan.