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Four lesser-known Sri Lanka players to watch out for against India

Nissanka, Embuldeniya are among those who can be a threat in the two-Test series

Pathum Nissanka averages 42.70 in Tests  •  AFP/Getty Images

Pathum Nissanka averages 42.70 in Tests  •  AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka have landed in India for a two-Test series. They've never in their history won a Test in the country. Will this team be the one to change that? On paper, probably not. But this is a very negative way to start a tour, so let's not go down that route. For the purposes of building hype, let's talk about four lesser-known players who could, maybe, just about, possibly, get Sri Lanka into good positions, from which, if they're lucky, they can dream of winning their first Test in the country. (Look, just humour us.)
Of all Sri Lanka's young red-ball batters, Nissanka is the most promising. He has a compact defensive technique against spin, in particular, and good judgement against pace too. He's only six Tests (10 innings) into his career, but so far, he averages 37.71 in Sri Lanka, and 54.33 (in two matches) in the Caribbean. This is a lot to put on a 23-year-old, but no batting graduate of the Sri Lankan domestic system has seemed more Test-ready than Nissanka, and perhaps this should be no surprise, given he's scored 3872 first-class runs at 63.72. In recent months, he's made an impact in the shorter formats too, but it is Tests to which he is most suited. Very rarely do Sri Lanka batters make the transition to internationals as effortlessly as he has so far.
In 13 Test matches, Embuldeniya has five five-wicket hauls, and has helped win games in Durban, Harare, and Galle. He's best when he loops the ball, often getting it to dip just on or outside the off stump, luring batters into big - often fatal - drives. In Sri Lanka, Embuldeniya has usually been especially threatening with the new ball, often getting it to dart away sharply when the seam is hard, which suggests he might enjoy the prouder seam on the SG ball, earlier in an innings. He has not had a lot of success with a straighter ball, however, so he relies heavily on the flight and dip of his stock ball.
As the majority of India's expected top eight are likely to be right-handers, Sri Lanka may play two left-arm spinners in the same match, or at least will probably give Jayawickrama a run in one of the matches. Having come into the team because several other spinners ahead of him in the queue were injured, Jayawickrama has produced some good performances in his three-match career. The highlight so far was his match-winning 11-wicket haul against Bangladesh on debut, in Pallekele, last year.
Jayawickrama is a different spinner from Embuldeniya in that he is largely quicker through the air, bowls more wicket-to-wicket, and has a better straighter delivery. Expect him to attack the stumps. If he gets among the wickets, it'll probably be lbw and bowled dismissals. After three Tests, he averages 18.22.
These two are in one bracket, because with Suranga Lakmal likely to play both games (he's the best Sri Lanka seamer of the last few years, and also, it's his last series), only one of these two younger quicks is likely to play. Both are capable of breaching 145kph, but that's where the similarities end.
Chameera is the more reliable option. He's capable of being hostile (he's troubled plenty of batters with his bouncer over the past year), but also can usually stick to a line and length.
Kumara, meanwhile, is more wayward, but when the rhythm is right, produces exceptional bursts, delivering especially searing inswing in addition to the sharp back of a length deliveries, plus his bouncers. If he plays, expect him to be the quickest bowler of the series.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf