In a rough terrain testing of the might of India in the first of three Tests at Galle it will be interesting whether Sri Lanka will opt for three spinners in Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and, Malinda Pushpakumara on Wednesday July 26. Exploiting the home condition spin friendly Galle track could be a ploy of bearding the strong Indian batting line up in a contest Sri Lanka enter minus their ace in skipper Dinesh Chandimal, ruled out due to Pneumoniao. With the man stepping in to Chandimal’s shoes being spin wizard Herath, who has in the few outings he had to wear the big mantle proved to be a shrewd tactician, the temptation of using spin as the key weapon against Virat Kohli and his batting nucleus looks a possibility.
The selectors adding Pushpakumara to the squad is certainly a hint that the hosts would be toying with the strong possibility of beefing up the spin department going on past results where Galle has been result oriented to the hosts on the strong point of spin. The 30-year old Pushpakumara from Chilaw Marians, packing all-round capacity, has been tapping on the door for sometime for a big stage call up on the strength of superb first class credentials of 558 wickets from 99 matches at an average of 19.85, and is among the top three wicket-takers in the Premier League Tournament. He could well be Sri Lanka’s dark horse. A right hander, he has scored 1542 runs with a highest of 80 not out.
Meanwhile, the return of specialist batsman Dhanajaya De Silva for the indisposed Chandimal is interesting. De Silva, who lost his place in recent ODIs, has a fair batting pedigree enriched by his match winning 129 against Australia last year. From 9 Tests he has 709 runs inclusive of two centuries and two fifties for a pleasing average of 41.70.
In the pace bowling department, Seamer Nuwan Pradeep returns to the squad from injury during the ICC Champions Trophy. Two other notable inclusions in the 15-member squad are Dhanushka Gunathilaka and pace bowler Vishwa Fernando.
In the Indian camp, opener Shikhar Dhawan is set to replace the injured Murali Vijay.
Sri Lanka: Rangana Herath (C), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Malinda Pushpakumara, Nuwan Pradeep.
By Srian Obeyesekere