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SL's chance to shift India's focus from South Africa

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Dasgupta: Rohit doesn't fit if India play five bowlers (4:48)

Deep Dasgupta looks ahead to India's team combination for the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur (4:48)

Match facts

November 24-28, 2017
Start time 0930 local (0400 GMT)

Big Picture

Pride is an often-abused word in sports commentary. This, though, might be one justified case to evoke Sri Lanka's pride. They have travelled to India for a full Test series for the first time in eight years, and India are not concerned about them. They are concerned about South Africa. They rested their No. 1 allrounder because they want him ready for South Africa. Now it turns out the green itch at Kolkata wasn't a one-off; they have actually asked for similar surfaces through the tour, not to invoke some kind of home advantage or exploit some Sri Lankan weakness, but to prepare for South Africa. Even being bowled out for 170 in Kolkata is not enough to change their minds because they know they can still eventually put Sri Lanka in a state where they are hanging on for dear lives in the dying moments of the Test.

As India look to simulate Newlands in Nagpur, Sri Lanka have to ask them if they have become so bad that the first thing they invoke in India is not ghosts of batsmen and spinners past but an idea that the hosts can afford to use them almost as tour games for the South Africa tour. While it is definitely a welcome move from the perspective of Indian fans, their Sri Lanka counterparts will see this as lack of respect.

They will also know that their side needs to give a better account of themselves. They had everything going for them in Kolkata - they won the toss, put India in on a damp pitch under overcast skies, got the early wickets, had the best batting conditions to themselves - and yet when the last ball was bowled they were the ones who sighed in relief at having come out with a draw.

It is justified to think of a hurt pride but pride alone won't cut it. Sri Lanka need drastic improvement in every facet of their game to compete with India, who are yet to lose a bilateral series under Virat Kohli. Under the clear blue skies of Nagpur, they will look to make sure that record is kept intact even before they go to Delhi for the final Test of the series.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
India: DWWWW
Sri Lanka: DWWLL

In the spotlight

The three India openers share mutual respect despite being competitors for two slots, but for some reason or the other they also end up accommodating each other in the side. One of the three keeps getting injured or losing form to make sure the other two stay relevant. If it was the resurfacing of M Vijay's injury that allowed Shikhar Dhawan launch a Test comeback in Sri Lanka earlier this year, personal commitments for Dhawan have now opened up the door for Vijay to present his case before India travel to tougher conditions for opening. Now it is up to him to give India more selection headaches. Pleasant ones no doubt.

With his gamesmanship in Kolkata - he annoyed India and then watched them waste their own time by arguing about him - Niroshan Dickwella showed some of the qualities that have him anointed as Kumar Sangakkara's heir. It is unlikely time will be a factor in Nagpur, though. In Nagpur, it will be more about runs. As a No. 6 batsman, Dickwella's plate is too full too early in his career, but that is probably because Sri Lanka rate him that highly. These two Tests might be the time to justify that rating and add to the blank hundreds column in his batting records.

Team news

Vijay will take the slot vacated by Dhawan but India have different options when it comes to replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who will get married during the Test. Ishant Sharma could be his like-for-like replacement or Rohit Sharma could slot in as the extra batsman or rookie Vijay Shankar could play as a seaming allrounder if India want to test a seaming allrounder for South Africa. The spinners should both play because unlike Kolkata, there will be work to do for them, especially in the second innings.

India (probable): 1 M Vijay, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 R Ashwin, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Ishant Sharma/Rohit Sharma/Vijay Shankar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav.

With conditions not skewed as heavily in favour of fast bowling as they were in Kolkata, Sri Lanka will have to decide if they need an extra batsman. That could mean Dasun Shanaka might have to make way for Dhananjaya de Silva. Lahiru Gamage was unimpressive in Kolkata, and should vacate his place for left-arm quick Vishwa Fernando.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dhananjaya de Silva/ Dasun Shanaka ,8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath, 11 Vishwa Fernando

Pitch and conditions

Another greentop awaits India and Sri Lanka, but an even covering of grass does not guarantee the same help fast bowlers found in Kolkata. Not many pitches in the world would, not even in South Africa. The weather in Nagpur is expected to be sunny and dry, and conditions, as a result, could traverse the full arc: early assistance for the quicks, flat batting conditions on days two and three, and then, perhaps, some turn and uneven bounce.

"The wicket is quite hard as it usually is at Nagpur with a nice grass covering on it," Virat Kohli said. "So, the fast bowlers should be in play for the first couple of days, for sure, because of the bounce and the nice carry off it as well. From there on, the spinners will come into play. It is a pretty good wicket for overall Test cricket, I feel."

Stats and trivia

  • Umesh Yadav is three short of 100 Test wickets. If he gets there with his current average of 35.89, his will be the sixth-worst cost-per-wicket among fast bowlers who have taken 100 wickets. No. 5 is Ishant Sharma, whose wickets have cost 36.93 each.

  • If India happen to play both Ishant Sharma and Vijay Shankar, this will be the first time in their history that they will have included four seamers in their XI in a home Test, not counting Mohinder Amarnath who occasionally bowled.

Quotes

"If you take the Indian team, they are a very good side. It is a big challenge for us as a team to come here and win a game or a series. But I am sure we can do some miracle here. We have to do our basics, stick to our game plans. In the middle we have to execute our game plans. If we can do that, we can put the Indians under pressure. We are looking at that as a team."
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal believes miracles are brought about over time and not overnight

"I like to see that competitiveness on the field. In the heat of things, I will do anything for my team to win. Afterwards we had a normal chat [with Dickewella], and on the flight as well. Those things end on the field. When you are competitive as an opponent, we always respect that about any opponent."
India captain Virat Kohli didn't mind the spice in the final plays of the Kolkata Test