NAGPUR: India almost pulled off a sensational win in the 1st Test of the three-match series in Kolkata and as the scene shifts to Nagpur, skipper Virat Kohli and his boys would be keen to establish that the glitches they experienced on the first two days of the Eden Test were just small wrinkles that have been decisively ironed out.
India were favourites to sweep the series , but the Sri Lankans escaped in the fading light of Kolkata. Kohli would hopefully have no such concerns when the 2nd Test begins. Having earned the psychological edge by decimating the Sri Lankan top and middle-order during the final session of the drawn first Test, the hosts will once again play on a green track at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Jamtha.
The hint of grass on the pitch is in keeping with the team’s preparation for the gruelling South African tour which starts next month. A decent cover of green on the match strip is a marked departure from what has been a traditionally low and slow batting belter over the years. However, till the first ball is bowled, it will be difficult to presume the kind of bounce that will be on offer. “It seems to be a good pitch. It will be helpful for the fast bowlers at least on the first two days,” said Kohli .
For India, the challenge will be to produce an improved performance in trying conditions even though it is expected that the challenge to score runs on this track will be a wee bit less than what it was at the Eden Gardens under overcast conditions. Kohli has shown how to take a bull by its horn with the magnificent ton in a pressure situation and his men will be itching to do the same against Suranga Lakmal and company .
India’s most technically equipped opener Murali Vijay will be making a comeback into the playing XI as Shikhar Dhawan has taken a break for personal reasons. Experts felt that Vijay’s compact technique was missing during the first two days as Dhawan is known to be a bit edgy early on. The Delhi left-hander did score 94 in the second innings but it was when batting had become easier during the fourth afternoon.
Vijay’s ability and clarity on where his off-stump is makes him a valuable asset in the longest format as he has the patience to leave a lot of deliveries. Another certainty in the playing XI is Ishant Sharma -the most capped player in the current Test squad with 77 matches in whites. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar getting married, the lanky speedster is expected to get two shots to keep the other pace bowling contenders in the playing XI for South Africa tour on tenterhooks. Ishant has done his hard yards in the domestic circuit with 20 wickets from four Ranji Trophy games. He has bowled 116 overs in all, which has been a commendable effort as he was leading the side in all those games.