Dinesh Chandimal is expected to return from pneumonia to lead injury-hit Sri Lanka as they bid to rebound from their record thrashing against India in the second Test in Colombo, starting on Thursday.
Chandimal, who was only appointed last month, sat out the first Test in Galle when Virat Kohli’s India won by 304 runs — their biggest margin of victory in terms of runs on foreign soil.
It piled yet more pressure on beleaguered Sri Lanka, whose humiliating one-day series defeat to minnows Zimbabwe prompted former captain Angelo Mathews to step down.
Sri Lanka are also battling injuries ahead of the second Test, where they are bidding to stay alive in the three-Test series.
All-rounder Asela Gunaratne fractured a thumb during the first Test in Galle, and veteran bowler and stand-in captain Rangana Herath also injured a middle finger.
Sri Lanka’s cricket manager Asanka Gurusinha said Chandimal should be fit for Colombo after his bout of pneumonia. Left-arm spinner Herath, who was unable to bat in the second innings, is still not certain.
“We will give him (Herath) till the last minute to make sure that he is fit. The day before the Test we will see whether he can drift the ball, it will come down to that,” said Gurusinha.
Batsman Danushka Gunathilaka, who made his Test debut in Galle, is likely to give up his place to Chandimal, while Kusal Mendis is expected to return to his number three batting position.
– ‘Our players are capable’ –
Sri Lankan chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya backed his team to bounce back at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, recalling India’s turnaround during the previous series in 2015.
“India did come back the last time they were here, after losing in Galle. This is cricket, and if we apply ourselves and want (to come back) then we can,” Jayasuriya told The Times Of India.
“This is something we proved last year when we beat Australia, then world’s number one Test team, 3-0 when they were here. It wasn’t a one-off win because we can’t win three Tests in a row without playing well.
“So, our players are capable. We need to give them lot of confidence,” said the former star all-rounder.
But Sri Lanka, now seventh in the world rankings, will have to show rapid improvements against India, who dominated the opening Test.
Kohli said he was facing his own selection headache with opener Lokesh Rahul available for selection after recovering from viral fever.
Shikhar Dhawan, who scored 190 in the first innings, and Abhinav Mukund, whose 81 steered the team’s second innings, have made the opening slot a dilemma for the selectors.
But Rahul is expected to make the starting line-up in place of Mukund.
The match will mark batsman Cheteshwar Pujara’s 50th Test. He hit a patient 153 in the first innings of his 49th game to improve his average to 52.18.
“There have been ups and downs, but looking at the recent form, I will be looking forward to play in the 50th Test match and score some runs for the team,” the 29-year-old Pujara said.