7/17/10

India will seek to end a 17-year-long series drought in Sri Lanka when they go into the three-match Test series against the island nation on Sunday with a depleted bowling attack and dodgy form of some of their famed batsmen.

The last time India won a Test series in the island nation was in 1993 under Mohammed Azharuddin with a 1-0 scoreline and their track record has not been too impressive.

But Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men are determined to change their fortune this time around and get the better of the hosts in what will be spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan's last Test appearance.

Handicapped by the absence of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth, the Indian bowling attack clearly lacks the bite as was evident in the three-day warm up game against the Sri Lanka Board President's XI.

But it is the star-studded batting line up which will have to deliver the goods if India, the top ranked Test team in the world, hope to put it across the islanders who are known to be tough competitors at home.

The formidable batting line-up, which includes stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag, will be looking to spoil Murali's party in his swansong Test.

The Sri Lankan spin warrior will give it all to get those eight wickets needed to complete his 800-wicket tally in the longer version of the game.

India have vowed to spoil Murali's party but they are a worried lot since their bowling struggled in the only warm up game and the batsmen also failed to impress against the spin of Ajantha Mendis.

However, there are some bright spots too as Yuvraj Singh was back among runs and Gautam Gambhir too gave glimpses of his touch.

Dravid and VVS Laxman have not played Tests for long time but it would not be a problem for them to get back to groove.

India would be relieved that their tormentor Ajantha Mendis, who haunted even in the warm up game, will not be in Lanka's playing XI.

Suraj Randiv or Rangana Herath will be assisting Murali in the spin department and the host skipper has many a option in part time bowlers like Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Lasith Malinga is also back in the squad and the quick bowler with his peculiar action has always been a headache for the rivals.

But the biggest concern for India is their weakened bowling department against a very strong batting line-up of the Sri Lankans, who will be charged up to make the Test memorable for their colleague Muralitharan.

Ishant Sharma, who was striving to cement his place in the side, has suddenly been thrust into leading the pace attack in absence of injured Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth.

His colleague in all probability will be either Munaf Patel or Abhimanyu Mithun and they would do a world of good to India's chances if they can make early inroads.

Harbhajan Singh is the most experienced bowler in the side and will have to shoulder most of the burden but he will go into the match without any practice due to viral fever.

It will be a big test not only for the young Indian bowlers to rise to the occasion but also for India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to lead the team in adversity.

Sri Lanka have won eight of the last nine series at home and with players like captain Kumara Sangakkara, Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Thilina Kandambi in their ranks, India are in for some serious job.

Teams (from):

India: M S Dhoni (C), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Vijay, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha and Abhimanyu Mithun.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (C), Muttiah Muralitharan, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Dilhara Fernando, Dammika Prasad, Suraj Randiv, Thilina Kandamby, Chanaka Welegedara, Lahiru Thirimanne.

Match starts at 10 am (IST).