Shas­tri on mis­sion to keep In­dia at num­ber one

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

New In­dia coach Ravi Shas­tri will to­mor­row look to prove his team re­mains the world’s best Test side when they take on Sri Lanka in the first of three matches. Shas­tri, who took over the de­mand­ing role af­ter Anil Kum­ble’s ac­ri­mo­nious exit last month, has backed In­dia to con­tinue the “fear­less brand of cricket” that helped them re­gain the num­ber one po­si­tion last year from Pak­istan. While In­dia lost the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy fi­nal to their arch-ri­vals, the Vi­rat Kohli-led side is on a roll af­ter win­ning 10 of the last 13 Tests, over­com­ing top sides like New Zealand, England and Aus­tralia. “They know their job. They are pro­fes­sional crick­eters. Once they step on the field they take over. That is how it should be,” said Shas­tri, who be­came head coach af­ter Kum­ble quit over his “un­ten­able” re­la­tion­ship with Kohli. “My role will be to get the guys to ex­press them­selves and play a fear­less brand of cricket,” the for­mer all-rounder added.

While In­dia start as over­whelm­ing favourites af­ter the sev­enth-ranked Sri Lanka scraped past Zim­babwe in a one-off Test last week, Shas­tri has warned against com­pla­cency. “Sri Lanka can’t be taken lightly at home. Their track record play­ing at home is as good as any another team. We would look to im­prove in the se­ries,” said the 55-year-old. The vis­i­tors have played a two-day warm-up game in Colombo with re­turn­ing bats­man Shikhar Dhawan among the scor­ers.

Mean­while In­dian opener Lokesh Rahul, who scored a half-cen­tury in the prac­tice game, was ruled out of the first match due to vi­ral fever.

In­dia could start with three spin­ners and use left-arm wrist spin­ner Kuldeep Ya­dav with the ex­pe­ri­enced Ravichan­dran Ash­win and Ravin­dra Jadeja. Ash­win said the play­ers were look­ing for­ward to work­ing with Shas­tri. “Ravi has been a fab­u­lous per­son to have in the dress­ing room. Even when he was here last time, we lost that Test in Galle and he re­ally picked us up from that low point in our ca­reers,” Ash­win told re­porters. Sri Lanka, whose new Test skip­per Di­nesh Chandi­mal has been ruled out through flu, will need all the ex­pe­ri­ence of stand-in cap­tain Ran­gana Herath. The lef­t­arm spin­ner, who took 11 wick­ets against Zim­babwe and his 31st five-wicket haul in 81 Tests, is key for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s pace lineup has been bol­stered by the re­turn of vet­eran Nuwan Pradeep, who is likely to start at Galle In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium. Dhanan­jaya de Silva adds mus­cle to their strong bat­ting ar­se­nal, com­pris­ing for­mer cap­tain An­gelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dick­wella. Sri Lanka’s in­terim coach Nic Pothas said the team should take in­spi­ra­tion from Kohli’s men, who over­came a 1-0 deficit to beat the is­landers in a three-Test se­ries in 2015.

The tri­umph res­ur­rected In­dia’s for­tunes as they reg­is­tered their first se­ries win in Sri Lanka for 23 years and went on to be­come the num­ber one Test side again a year later.

“I think we prob­a­bly are in the same sit­u­a­tion that Vi­rat was talk­ing about the In­dian team be­ing in a few years ago. We are in that re­build­ing phase,” said Pothas.

The South African, who took charge af­ter Gra­ham Ford’s exit last month, added he was fo­cused on chang­ing the team’s cul­ture and un­leash­ing their po­ten­tial.

Sri Lanka: Ran­gana Herath (Cap­tain), 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. In­dia: Vi­rat Kohli (Cap­tain), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Chetesh­war Pu­jara, Ajinkya Ra­hane (vice cap­tain), Ro­hit Sharma, Ravichan­dran Ash­win, Ravin­dra Jadeja, Wrid­dhi­man Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Ya­dav, Hardik Pandya, Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar, Mo­hammed Shami, Kuldeep Ya­dav, Ab­hi­nav Mukund.

Ravi Shas­tri

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