Captain Dinesh Chandimal is dreaming of Sri Lanka making history by winning a Test in India — despite being huge underdogs against the world’s top-ranked side when the series begins in Kolkata on Thursday.
Sri Lanka lost all nine matches — three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 international — as they were humiliated at home by Virat Kohli’s tourists from late July to September.
The island nation have still never won a Test on Indian soil but they head for Eden Gardens with renewed hopes after winning both Tests against Pakistan in the UAE last month and Chandimal believes dreams can come true.
“We did really well against Pakistan and the boys are in a good shape,” Chandimal said.
“We know India are the number one team at the moment and have seen them play some really good cricket in the last two years. This will be a challenging series for us.
“We have never won a Test in India. So it’s a dream for us to win one this time. We need to start well in this series,” he declared.
Sri Lanka lost all three home Tests this year against India inside four days with Chandimal terming it their “worst ever” series.
Coach Nic Pothas, who took over after Graham Ford left in June, said the India debacle had taught his team vital lessons.
“We learnt how Indian team does well and the areas we needed to improve,” he said.
“It’s internal – the discipline, the culture and how the teams stick together,” Pothas said.
“The mistake you can make here is come and be infatuated with the Indian side and concentrating too much on them. We know they are a good side. But we played them months ago,” the South African added.
Fifties from Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella gave Sri Lanka a solid start to the tour in their two-day game against the Board President’s XI in Kolkata.
All-rounder Mathews, who is returning from a calf injury that made him miss the Pakistan Tests, will be employed solely as a batsman.
Veteran Rangana Herath will lead Sri Lanka’s spin attack, supported by Dilruwan Perera and left-arm unorthodox Lakshan Sandakan.
Kohli’s India are looking to consolidate their top Test ranking and keep their winning run intact on home soil.
The Indians have not lost a home series in any format since being beaten by South Africa in one-dayers in 2015.
Sri Lanka will be India’s last home challenge before heading off on tough tours to South Africa and England next year.
“First target is to win the first Test and get momentum to win the series,” wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha said on Monday.
With leading all-rounder Hardik Pandya rested for the first two matches, the focus will be on senior spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who were rested for the last month’s limited-overs matches against Australia and New Zealand.
The second Test begins on November 24 in Nagpur with the final match starting in Delhi on December 2. The two sides will also play three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches.
India (from): Virat Kohli (capt), Lokesh Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma.
Sri Lanka (from): Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Dilruwan Perera, Lahiru Gamage, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Dasun Shanaka, Niroshan Dickwella, Roshen Silva