India will be without opener M Vijay, their most consistent and prolific batsman over the last year, as they begin a three-Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday. A hamstring injury sustained in Zimbabwe, said team director Ravi Shastri at the media briefing this afternoon, had not healed enough. "He is still under recovery, not fully recovered, and we don't want to take a chance with weather like this and slippery outfield."
Vijay will be replaced by KL Rahul, who produced two 40-plus scores in the Indian team's tour opener in Colombo against the Board President's XI. Shastri said Vijay's omission would be a "big blow" as he was the "in-form player who has had a fabulous run in Test cricket."
Prior to India's departure for Sri Lanka, there had been reports that Vijay had some injury concerns but captain Virat Kohli said he expected Vijay to be "match fit" even before the start of the only tour game, on August 6. "No, I don't see any issues with Vijay's fitness," Kohli said. "As far as I know, Vijay is almost 100% straightaway and I am sure he will be match fit even before the warm-up game."
Vijay did not bat in the tour game, but that was expected as India looked to decide on who would partner him at the top of the order: Rahul or Shikhar Dhawan.
Vijay turned up at the India nets this afternoon, batting only against the spinners and testing out his ability to stretch forward. While visible movement appeared not to be a problem against the spinners, Vijay was seen shaking his right leg between deliveries, and it is this doubt over the internal injury that has led the Indians to sit Vijay out of the first Test. Shastri said Vijay's experience and his "ability to play the long innings" would be missed in a batting line up that will bat wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha at No. 6 in their drive to play five bowlers in every Test match and push for wins.
In his last 10 Tests for India, from June 2014 onwards, Vijay has scored over 1000 runs in 19 innings with three centuries and six fifties at an average of 54.42. His solidity at the top of the Indian order, whether batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan or Gautam Gambhir in England and Dhawan or KL Rahul in Australia, gave India the platform that led to a far better batting performance in 2014-15, than on India's previous tours to both countries in 2011-12.