India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur November 23, 2009

Teams back to square one

Match facts

November 24-28, 2009
Start time 9.30am (0400 GMT)

Big Picture

Sri Lanka started brilliantly in the first Test but were thwarted first by Rahul Dravid and then the pitch in Ahmedabad. Momentum is an over-rated word, though, and both teams will start afresh in Kanpur.

Experts reckoned that both captains were a little too defensive in the first Test and allowed the batsmen to dictate terms with easy singles. The main reason for that was perhaps the docile pitch but both teams will know that they must up their game if they are to go past South Africa and claim the No. 1 Test spot.

Both teams had a few problems in the spin department: Sri Lanka went in with Rangana Herath, who was outstanding in the home series against Pakistan, but he couldn't do much damage here. Muttiah Muralitharan too wasn't at his best but Sri Lanka will still consider him as their first-choice spinner. Ajantha Mendis is likely to replace Herath as he is quicker through the air and the faster spinners have been more effective on Indian tracks.

For India, Harbhajan Singh is yet to recapture the form he showed on the tour of New Zealand, where he was at the top of his game. The usually skillful Amit Mishra had a poor game, struggling for control and looking out of sorts. Will India see it as a one-off bad game and trust Mishra with another? While Herath and Mishra didn't perform well the onus, though, would be on the senior spinners, Muralitharan and Harbhajan, to show the way.

Form guide (last 5 Tests, most recent first)

India DDDWD
Sri Lanka DWWDW

Watch out for

Thilan Samaraweera: His Cricinfo profile uses the adjectives adhesive and well-organised; to that, add prolific - he has averaged 81.56 in the last year. There isn't a single shot that stands out in a Samaraweera innings but that's a tribute, not a criticism. Solidity over flashiness seems to be his mantra and Sri Lanka will hope he never gets ahead of himself.

Virender Sehwag flopped in the first innings at Motera and hit a fifty in the second that, though chancy, shifted the momentum of the game and no one will be surprised if he goes on to hit a big hundred. He has the game but is he in the mood for a substantial innings?

VVS Laxman also failed in the first innings and stitched together a patient fifty in the second to help draw the Test. He has the style, the class and, importantly, the form; expect a big one from him in Kanpur.

Team news

There were concerns over the fitness of MS Dhoni but he has been cleared to play. The question mark now hangs over the second spinner, but Mishra is likely to be retained. Considering how Mishra struggled due to lack of match practice, India might also retain Ishant, ahead of Sreesanth who last played for India 19 months ago. Not that Ishant did well - but not many bowlers did on that placid track.

India : (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Yuvraj Singh, 7 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Amit Mishra.

Dilshan broke his nose after colliding with a team-mate during practice but he has recovered and will play. Fast bowler Dammika Prasad, however, is likely to miss out after suffering a grade one hamstring strain. He could be replaced by either Nuwan Kulasekara or Dilhara Fernando. The big question, though, will be over the second spinner to partner Murali. Will Mendis be given a chance?

Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara/Dilhara Fernando, 9 Chanaka Welegedara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Ajantha Mendis/Rangana Herath.

Pitch and conditions

The last time India played a Test in Kanpur, they prepared a spin track to trounce South Africa by eight wickets. They even opened the bowling with Harbhajan in the second innings. This time around the curator says it will be a sporting track with the spinners coming into play from the third day. A lot of attention has been showered on the pitch in the lead-up to this Test.

Stats and Trivia

  • The Green Park has 20 Tests so far, of which 12 have been drawn. Recent games have been more result oriented, though, with only three draws in the last seven Tests.
  • India have a good record here, winning three of the last six Tests and drawing the others. The last time they lost in Kanpur was way back in 1983, against West Indies.
  • Samaraweera averages a cracking 115.33 against India in Sri Lanka but has a measly average of 22.40 from six innings in India. Muralitharan's bowling averages too are similarly skewed: He averages a poor 42.58 from 12 innings in India.
  • Virender Sehwag averages 50 in five Tests against Sri Lanka, but only 18.66 in two games against the same team at home. Of his 400 runs, 251 came in one Test.
  • These two teams played each other only once in Kanpur, in 1986, and it was a high-scoring draw. They couldn't finish even the first innings; Sri Lanka were all out for 420 and India were 676 for 7 when the curtains fell on the Test.
  • In 20 Tests at this ground, only once has the team winning the toss chosen to field - India did it way back in 1964, in a drawn game against England.

Quotes

"It should be a good wicket to bat on and for a two-two [two fast bowlers, two spinners] combination."
Daljit Singh, the head of the BCCI curators' committee, promises a sporting pitch.

"I am not worried about my position in the team. I don't believe that I am doing anything wrong with my bowling and the team backs me to bounce back soon."
Amit Mishra, who picked up just one wicket in the first Test, is confident of doing better in Kanpur.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo