Lasith Malinga will be a notable absentee in the second Test which begins tomorrow. Pic by Sanka Vidanagama
The Lankans’ sustainability will be put to the test when they take on India tomorrow in the second of the three Test series at the SSC Grounds amidst worries over injuries and uncertainty over life without match-winner Muttiah Muralitharan.
First it was India which came into the first Test without their pace spearheads Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth who withdrew from the tour owing to Injury.
Now Sri Lanka joins the band, walking into this game without the Murali Magic and Lasith Malinga thunderbolts. Malinga has been rested for this game as he is nursing a stiff knee. Malinga made his comeback to Test cricket in Galle after a three-year lapse, also owing to injuries, and played a critical role in Sri Lanka's victory by taking 5 for 50 in the second innings. He bowled a total of 30 overs in the match for seven wickets. In that game Muralitharan and Malinga shared among them 15 of the twenty Indian wickets.
It is a situation that Sri Lanka cannot afford to lose this game. If Sri Lanka keep a clean slate in this series and win it 2-0, they could be catapulted into the top slot in the ICC Test rankings.
With Pakistan winning the second Test against Australia at Leeds in England, Sri Lanka moved yesterday into the third place in the ICC rankings.
If Sri Lanka win the series 2-0 they will earn six rating points and move to the top position at the end of the series. Sri Lankan Cricket Manager Anura Tennakoon explaining the current dressing room mood to the Sunday Times said, “In spite of losing Murali and Malinga the mood in the dressing room is very good. Obviously after winning a Test match the way they did the mood has to be positive.”
The Sunday Times reliably understands that ‘slinger’ Lasith Malinga who bamboozled the Indians and paved the way for that memorable win has expressed dissatisfaction about his placement in the contract pecking order.
After the game Malinga has spoken to the team management and said that he was not happy about his placement in the fourth slot while Nuwan Kulasekera is in the second slot and Angelo Mathews in the third slot placed above him.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, T.M. Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera and Muttiah Muralitharan are placed in the top slot.
When asked what he felt about going into the Second Test without the two match winners who helped win the first Test, Tennakoon said, “The selectors have brought in Ajantha Mendis to the slot that Muralitharan occupied and now the captain has an added choice in him for tomorrow morning, where the spin option is concerned. He also bowled very well in the practice game against the Indians to bag 6 for 67. In the pace bowling section bowlers like Dilhara Fernando have played a lot of international matches and that shows that our bench strength is very good. So I do not think the selectors will have a huge problem in selecting the final squad for the game at hand”.
Though they could not live up to the promise in the first Test the Indian batting line up arguably is one of the most potent in modern day cricket. With huge names like Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj and skipper Dhoni the Indian batting is top drawer stuff.
However the same could not be said about the Indian bowling department. To begin with they are without the services of their best bowler Zaheer Khan through injury. Though Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun bowled within their limitations it could not be termed as a combination that could run through batting line that the Lankans possess twice.
Added to their woes the Indian spin duo of experienced Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha went through the first Test wicketless.
History has proved that the Sinhalese Sports Club strip turns into a batting paradise after the initial two hours on the first day, where it tends to seam around.
All in all, it seems that the game will be a bat heavy one where the bowlers of both sides would have to prove their worth.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (Captain), T.M. Dilshan Tharanga Paranavithana, Mahela Jayawardana (V Captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Anjelo Mathews, Thilina Kandamby, Prasanna Jayawardena(Wicket keeper) Ajantha Mendis, Chanaka Welagedera, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Hearth, Dhammika Prasad, Dilhara Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Nuwan Pradeep
India: (From): MS Dhoni, (Captain/Wicket Keeper), Virender Sehwag (Vice-captain), Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, VVS Laxman, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Yuvraj Singh,