Following a successful 3-0 sweep over Sri Lanka in the
T20Is, India turn their attention to the longest format as they take on the
Islanders in a two-Test series starting from the 4th of March. The first Test
in Mohali marks a new era for the Indian team as Rohit Sharma takes over the
reins of the red-ball captaincy from Virat Kohli.
In addition to the captaincy switch, there are also plenty
of changes to the India squad for this series, with the Men in Blue dropping
senior batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane from the side in the wake
of the 2-1 Test series defeat against South Africa. With Pujara and Rahane
side-lined, India will field a new-look middle-order against Sri Lanka with
Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer or Hanuma Vihari vying for the two vacant spots in
the batting line-up.
Having opened for India in ten Tests, Shubman Gill is the
favourite to take Pujara’s spot at number three, leaving Shreyas Iyer and
Hanuma Vihari to fight it out for the number five role. Although Iyer impressed
in his recent Test debut against New Zealand with a century, Hanuma Vihari is
the more established red-ball batter. The 28-year-old has proven himself in all
conditions in Test cricket and was even selected ahead of Iyer to replace the
injured Virat Kohli in the Johannesburg Test earlier this year.
The first Test in Mohali also marks a special milestone for
former India captain Virat Kohli, who is set to become the 12th Indian
cricketer to play 100 Tests for the Men in Blue. The 33-year-old made his debut
against the West Indies in Kingston in 2011 and has scored 7962 runs at an
average of 50.3 in 99 matches. Kohli has also scored 27 centuries in the
longest format, although the number four batsman has infamously not reached the
three-figure mark in Test cricket in nearly three years, stretching back to
After resting most of their all-format stars for the T20Is,
India welcome the return of Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Mohammed Shami for
the Test matches in Mohali and Bengaluru. Ravichandran Ashwin’s inclusion in
the first encounter will depend on a late fitness test, while KL Rahul,
Washington Sundar and Axar Patel have been side-lined due to injury.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will be without the injured trio of
Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana and Ramesh Mendis for this series.
However, the Islanders do welcome the return of Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru
Thiramane and Kusal Mendis to the red-ball setup for the first time since the
lifting of their ban.