India and Sri Lanka to rely on spin in first Test

By Rex Clementine, IANS,

Colombo : Both India and Sri Lanka will rely heavily on spin bowling, playing two specialist spinners, in the first Test match at Singhalese Sports Club ground that starts here Wednesday.

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While off-spinner Harbhajan Singh returns from a ban and will partner captain and leg-spinner Anil Kumble, Sri Lanka have included mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis to support Muttiah Muralitharan.

Both sides indicated in the pre-match media briefing that they will play six specialist batsmen apart from a wicketkeeper at number seven. That means there’s room for only two seam bowlers. While Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma will share the new ball for India, Sri Lanka will depend on the two left-arm combination of Chaminda Vaas and Thilan Tushara Mirando.

Both captains welcomed the new referral system that will be tried during the Test series.

The trial was initially supposed to be introduced in England, but following objections by the English players, it was shifted to Sri Lanka.

According to the trial system, a player or the captain of the team can challenge an umpiring decision if he perceives the decision is incorrect. There are three referrals per innings and every decision that is successfully challenged ensures that the quota of three referrals remain intact.

“It’s for the obvious error that happens on the field. It’s not something where you question every decision of the umpire. Sometime on the spur of the moment, they might not have picked up an edge during an lbw appeal and they give you out and those kind of moments probably will be sorted out and that might change the course of the game,” Indian captain Anil Kumble said supporting the new referral system.

Opposition captain Mahela Jayawardene too echoed the same sentiments.

“Every decision is important because one wrong decision can affect the outcome of the series or end somebody’s career. This will be eradicated by the referral system. It’s not going to be a case of referring each and every decision. We need to keep it very simple,” Jayawardene said.

While the third umpire for the game is local Asoka de Silva, the ICC has flown in experienced umpire Rudi Koertzen of South Africa to function in the role of TV Technology Trial Umpire.

Jayawardene said the ongoing saga on the manager of the Sri Lankan cricket team had not affected the moral of the Sri Lankans.

“Our priority is focusing on the Test Match and prepare ourselves. I honestly don’t know what exactly has been going on. Trevor (Bayliss) is the one who has had chats with the cricket board and he is looking after that right now and we are just focusing on the Test match,” he added.

Although the euphoria surrounding mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis has been ever growing since his remarkable six wicket haul in the Asia Cup final, Kumble felt the pressure will be on the debutant, who is yet to face this his kind of pressure.

“We discussed Mendis as we did other bowlers. This is his first Test, so the pressure is on him. A youngster who plays the first Test will be nervous. If you look at our line up, most of our batsmen have played more than 100 Test Matches,” Kumble said.

Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Van Dort, Malinda Warnapura, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chamara Silva, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilina Thushara Mirando, Ajantha Mendis and Chamara Kapugedera.

India (from): Anil Kumble (captain), Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel and Pragyan Ojha.

The Test will be crucial for former Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar, who is 172 runs short of overtaking Brian Lara’s World Record of runs in Test cricket.

Umpires: Mark Benson (Eng) and Billy Doctrove (WI)
TV Technology Trial Umpire: Rudi Koertzen (RSA)
3rd Umpire: Asoka de Silva