INDIA TOUR PREVIEW

THE INDIAN FRONTIER

Roshan Abeysinghe previews Sri Lanka’s tour to India for three T20s and two Test matches

Sri Lanka’s tour of India is taking place after quite a while. India is one of the toughest frontiers to conquer and let’s not forget that very few teams of good standing have won on Indian soil. The great Australian team with a number of legendary names were once humbled and even Shane Warne taken apart.

After their triumphant tour of Sri Lanka, England were embarrassed by the manner in which they were annihilated in the Ashes down under. So let’s not fool ourselves and expect a Sri Lankan victory; and let’s also not unfairly criticise the team if they fail.

Though my personal expectations aren’t high, I want the Sri Lankans to compete and hold their heads up high at the end of the tour, and look back with satisfaction about any positives that come out of the tour.

However, if the results of the tour – which includes three T20s and two Tests – aren’t positive, Sri Lanka could be back to where they started… and the need of the hour will then be to go back to the drawing board!

The tendency of an average or weak team is to perform well against sides that aren’t too strong but when faced with tough teams, they could go to pieces. And that means chopping and changing players – a process that’s followed by an exodus and a sense of uncertainty.

Sri Lanka needs to showcase to the world that they can withstand the onslaught and their core group is still intact after the series, irrespective of the results.

A team’s mindset is an important factor and this is especially true for the white ball squad as they will be travelling to India on the back of their Australian trip. I can’t see many changes to the Sri Lankan lineup unless enforced, so continuity will be assured. However, the results – both for the team and individually – matter most and that’s what will be carried over to India.

Off the field activities such as motivation and managing mindsets will be critical for success on the field on this very tough Indian tour.

As for the white ball team, one wonders whether the Indian tour will see Kusal Janith Perera and Bhanuka Rajapaksa – who were not available for the recent T20 series in Australia – back in the fold since their collective experience and capabilities are critical to the team’s success.

Another massive plus is the role that Lasith Malinga will play in the white ball format as a bowling mentor. With Malinga’s experience and knowledge, it won’t be too long before Sri Lanka’s bowling capabilities see a huge improvement.

In the case of the red ball series, the return of Lahiru Thirimanne will be a positive influence. However, let’s not forget that young Pathum Nissanka did a good job along with skipper Dimuth Karunaratne against the West Indies in the last series.

The rest of the squad in the red ball format is quite straightforward. However, getting Niroshan Dickwella back sooner than later will benefit the team. Its good to see that he’s being made to work hard to get there, which is what Sri Lankan cricket has wanted for a while.

On a sad note, Suranga Lakmal will be on his last international tour for Sri Lanka. The man Mickey Arthur fondly called the ‘Asian Anderson’ will be missed in his role as a reliable and more than useful spearhead. Sri Lanka cricket will be poorer at least for some time, as a result of Lakmal’s absence.

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