By Revatha S. Silva
Teams for today’s Mohali Test
Sri Lanka possible 11:
Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wicket-keeper), Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, and Lasith Embuldeniya
India possible 11:
Rohit Sharma (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj
The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) I.S. Bindra Stadium wicket at Mohali, aka Sahibzada Ajit Singh (SAS) Nagar District in the North Indian State of Punjab, is “one-side green, and the other side flat” – a tricky track, of course!
Hence, the readiness of Sri Lanka to post a three-pronged pace attack (Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, and Lahiru Kumara) plus one specialist spinner (left-arm orthodox or leg-spin bowler Lasith Embuldeniya) along with another spin-bowling all-rounder, Dhananjaya de Silva, who bowls right-arm off-spin.
The two-match Test series between India and Sri Lanka will begin today (4) at 9.30 a.m. Thereafter, they will move down the country to Bengaluru in the State of Karnataka for their second Test starting on 12 March.
Today’s match is also the 100th Test appearance for former Indo Captain Virat Kohli.
‘Niro’ comes back
Sri Lanka’s team today could be considered identical to the combination posted by India too – three pacies (Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj), one specialist spinner (right-arm off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin), and another spin-bowling all-rounder (Ravindra Jadeja who bowls left-arm orthodox).
But the highlight today will be the remarkable comeback to be made by Sri Lanka’s wicket-keeper-batter Niroshan Dickwella.
Returns after April 2021
He, along with Dhanushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis, was handed a one-year international ban in July last year for breaching the Sri Lanka team’s biosecurity bubble in Durham, England. Later the ban was reduced to about six months and the three were free to play from January this year.
The 28-year-old “Niro” last played in a Test in April last year against Bangladesh in Pallekele. He missed the two-match victorious Test series against West Indies in Galle during November-December last year.
After January, both Gunathilaka and Mendis played for Sri Lanka in white-ball cricket, when their ban was lifted.
The notable absentee in the Sri Lanka side could be veteran wicket-keeper-batter Dinesh Chandimal. The fierce competition for Sri Lanka’s batting lineup has apparently cost in-form Chandimal his place in the national Test side.
Meanwhile, both Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka are likely to play in the final 11 for Sri Lanka.
‘Captaincy headache’ for Sharma
In the Indian camp, in his debut game as India’s Test Captain, Rohit Sharma is getting his share of the bitter “captaincy headache”.
He has to take a call on the Indian final playing 11. The first Test starting today is also poised to mark the beginning of the journey of the Indian batting line-up’s new look.
With both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane not playing in the side after nearly a decade, the new Indian captain has to take a decisive call between three contenders – Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, and Hanuma Vihari – for two Indo middle-order batting slots.
Vihari to be left out!
Skipper Sharma is set to open the innings with Mayank Agarwal; yet the confusion looks to be hovering around who will occupy their No. 3 batting slot.
Nevertheless, reports emerging from the venue suggested yesterday (3) that it could be Vihari who is going to be left out of today’s Test in the three-pronged race for two vacant middle-order batting positions, meaning both Gill and Iyer are to feature in the final 11.