New Delhi: Ten wins in the last 11 matches in all formats between these two teams strongly suggest a mismatch of epic proportions in the third and final Test between India and Sri Lanka that begins at the Kotla here on Saturday. Virat Kohli’s men swept the board earlier this year when they tourned the island nation, and given by the trend so fat in the first two matches of this series, another rout is very much on the cards.
This in fact,w ill be the home team management’s biggest worry. Or would have been with some India teams of the past. This unit has acquired a ruthlessness that is quite in keeping with their captain’s way of thinking, and the focus has been as much on the present face off as it has been on the South Africa tour that is around the corner. India will therefore have a two-stage plan in play here — close out this match that will help them equal a record run in Test victories with nine series in a row — and get their few misfiring components a good chance to get into form ahead of the Protean sojourn.
Top of the second list surely will be Ajinkya Rahane’s form. The vice-captain is a key component of the batting — especially in overseas conditions — and his struggles of late have been pitiable, especially for a man with his record. In three innings of the present series, Rahane has a grand total of six runs, zero, four and two being his scores, against a career average in the high forties. Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri will want him to get some runs under his belt anyhow, and against a Lankan attack devoid of its most potent weapon on a typical Kotla track in Rangana Herath, there can be no better opportunity.
Nor is there any external pressure on the 42-Test senior. Batsmen all around him have all scored heavily — openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, one-drop Cheterhwar Pujara, Kohli himself and most lately Rohit Sharma who ended an extended absence from Test cricket with a strokeful ton at Nagpur. Or may be, that is pressure in itself. When virtually everyone else seems to have runs flowing off their blades, the lack of runs from his own have surely contributed to Rahane’s state of mind. This game is an excellent opportunity to get over the hesitation that has marked his batsmanship these past few weeks by spending time at the wicket, be in self-denial mode with the attacking shots till his feet start to move with some certainty. Certainly captain and coach will want that to happen.