Sri Lanka will depend heavily on veteran spinner Rangana Herath as they look to win their maiden Test match on Indian soil.
When Sri Lanka won a Test match in South Africa for the first time six years ago, Rangana Herath was their hero. Herath took nine wickets in the memorable Durban win and in the upcoming three-match series against India, the Sri Lankans will be banking on their reliable left-arm spinner to give them that elusive win in India.
India and Australia are the only places that Sri Lanka have not won a Test match and if the tourists are to break the deadlock this time around, Herath’s versatility will be required.
“We have never won a Test match in India. It’s a big challenge for us. It’s my dream to win a Test match in India,” the 39-year-old Herath told Sunday Island.
Herath took 16 wickets in the recent two-match series against Pakistan as Sri Lanka ended Pakistan’s unbeaten run in UAE, that had lasted for seven years.
“The series win over Pakistan has given us a lot of confidence. The winning mentality is important. If we show the same mentality and intensity in India, I don’t think why we shouldn’t win a series in India,” Herath went onto say.
India will be high on confidence having whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in the bilateral series here in August. Sri Lanka failed to compete in that series often conceding big totals and the games failed to last the full distance. Herath captained the first Test in Galle in the absence of Dinesh Chandimal, who was unwell and then missed the last Test at Pallekele due to a back strain.
“In the Indian series at home, one drawback was that we weren’t able to take wickets. We were not able to break partnerships and as a result they went onto notch up scores in excess of 600. We missed a few chances as well. We have to go with a positive mindset that we can take 20 wickets.”
Herath welcomed the return of middle-order batsman Angelo Mathews to the side. The former captain missed the Pakistan series due to injury and a lot will be expected of him during the upcoming series.
“He is our most experienced batsman. He has won us many matches over the last several years and his return is vital for us as the middle-order now is stable. His return is a massive boost for the team.” Herath and Mathews are the only current Sri Lankan players, who have played a series in India.
Sri Lanka will begin the campaign with a three-day warm-up game with the Indian Board XI at Eden Gardens in Calcutta. The first Test will also be played at the iconic venue, the world’s second biggest stadium that has hosted many memorable games including the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka.
Then the tourists will move to Nagpur and Delhi for the remaining two games.