India go for first rank, SL for first win in India
Match factsDecember 2-6, 2009
Start time 9.30am (0400 GMT)
Test cricket returns to a stadium originally designed to be the Lord's of India, which retained the exclusivity of Lord's but lost touch with the common man somewhere down the line. It houses the Ranji Trophy in its foyer and is built for storytelling, from the one when Abbas Ali Baig was kissed by a fan during an innings to the legendary Vijay Hazare-Vijay Merchant "rivalry" back in the day, and many in between.
The world has changed and the Brabourne Stadium has lost its prime position in the Mumbai hierarchy but what it hasn't lost is its sense of occasion. Should it be a mere coincidence, then, that India go in to the match with a chance of becoming the No.1 Test team for the first time ever, at a ground where more than 50 years ago they came agonisingly close to their first Test win when the umpire removed the bails with 90 seconds left on the clock and India six short of the target set by West Indies?
Sri Lanka have never played here, nor have they ever won in India. They are the second-ranked team in the world. Sri Lanka are struggling, Muttiah Muralitharan is struggling, their first-choice pace bowlers are down with injuries. Take out Bangladesh, and 12 of Sri Lanka's last 14 Test wins have come at home. Sri Lanka need to win this one, and justify their No. 2 ranking.
Form guide (last 5 Tests, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDWWD
Watch out for
Muttiah Muralitharan's slump is unreal, and yet cruelly true. Age is catching up; the shoulder and fingers must be sore; the SG ball doesn't come out just right; the Indian batsmen play him better than any other have; the pitches are affording slow turn. Yet Murali has to find a way. It can't all end in a whimper.
Murali Vijay is getting used to being the spare opener. Playing a Test when Gautam Gambhir feels like shouldering a bowler or when his sister is getting married or when other such equally fortuitous circumstances provide Vijay a chance. He scored 33 and 41 on Test debut last year, in the last match of the series against Australia, and ensured a recall when the need be. He will want to do better.
Of the four big Sri Lankan batsmen who landed in India without centuries to their name here, Kumar Sangakkara still remains. As a captain he will want to leave a big imprint with the bat in a must-win match.
Team newsVijay is almost certain to take Gambhir's place in what should be the only change to the India XI that won in Kanpur. Sreesanth did have a minor injury scare, but is likely to play. "He hurt his finger a bit but it's not too serious. He would play tomorrow," said MS Dhoni.
India : (probable) 1 M Vijay, 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 Sreesanth, 11 Pragyan Ojha.
Nuwan Kulasekara is fully fit and is likely to reinforce an attack that looked listless in Kanpur. He should take Ajantha Mendis' place in the final XI. There should be a debate between Chanaka Welegedara and Dilhara Fernando, but the left-arm variety could be given the nod.
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, 9 Chanaka Welegedara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Rangana Herath.
Pitch and conditionsNormally a pitch hosting a Test for the first time in 36 years would be a big unknown, but this one seems to have come as a pleasant change for both captains. Both expect nice bounce, help for fast bowlers in the earlier stages, and spin in the latter. "There will be a bit of bounce for the fast bowlers and as the game progresses you will see the spinners coming into action," Dhoni said. "They will get a bit of turn with bounce and that is what the spinners love the most. The first session will be crucial and that is when the seamers will get a bit of help, and also in the evening because of this time of the year the fast bowlers - if they maintain the ball - they will be able to swing it."
Stats and Trivia
- Eleven out of 17 Tests at the Brabourne have been drawn, but four out of the last six have yielded results.
- c Jayawardene b Murali is one short of 100 dismissals in all international cricket, by far a record for a bowler-fielder combination.
- Leading into his Test comeback, Sreesanth had bowled 112 overs for eight first-class wickets at 45.75. In his first innings back in Test cricket, he took 22 overs to finish a match-winning five-for.
- Rahul Dravid is only 218 runs behind Ricky Ponting, but has scored 28 centuries as opposed to Ponting's 38. Mahela Jayawardene has scored only one century fewer than Dravid, but has done it over 9079 runs, as opposed to Dravid's 11,182.
Quotes"We are not thinking about the ranking because you don't really want to be under pressure, you just want to play your natural game. We know if we keep winning the ratings will take care of themselves."
MS Dhoni thinks the thoughts of becoming No. 1 can wait for a bit
"Still a great opportunity. It's a case of regrouping and keep doing our basics right. I think we have the make-up of the side to beat any side in the world, and this is another opportunity for us to do that."
Kumar Sangakkara sees an opportunity in adversity
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo