The Indian Test team for the tour of Sri Lanka has been announced, and there have been few surprises but for the recall of veteran leggie Amit Mishra. Even the selection of the 32-year-old slow bowler should not be seen as surprising, as India have few options for the spot of the third spinner. The much-younger Karn Sharma is injured, Pragyan Ojha is yet to find his groove after he was forced to modify his action. As for Piyush Chawla, he has proved to be good enough only in the IPL. In comparison, Mishra has tasted success before in Tests, and has been given a raw deal at times. It wouldn't be wrong to say then that Mishra has earned a deserved recall.
The rest of the squad pretty much picks itself. Shikhar Dhawan may have had a torrid time away from home, but he remains a force on sub-continental pitches. This was evident in the manner in which he succeeded in the Test in Bangladesh. Dhawan was lucky to get a break for the Mirpur Test, as his replacement Lokesh Rahul had injured himself. But, the left-hander made full use of the opportunity as he cracked a hundred. Interestingly, Rahul had also cracked a ton in the last Test he played for India before getting injured. With the consistent Murali Vijay being the first choice opener, it would be interesting to see who opens with him.
There were reports that Cheteshwar Pujara might be axed from the Sri Lanka series. But, the selectors have made the right move by retaining him, for he deserves a few more opportunities before being discarded. Pujara was part of the Mirpur game as well, but was axed in favour of Rohit Sharma. India will be in a dilemma again as far as the batting order is concerned. If Pujara is not given a go at the number three spot, India could try out one of the openers -- Dhawan or Rahul. Alternately, they could also go with Rohit at number three, thus effectively shutting the door on Pujara for now. That said, no.3 is one of the toughest positions to bat at.
Two of the middle order spots will automatically be occupied by the two best and most consistent batsmen in the team, skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who led the team in Zimbabwe. Even as the others have struggled on away tours, Kohli and Rahane have been the two men to come out with their reputations enhanced. The task for them should be easier in Sri Lanka, but they would be keen to continue the winning run. The series will also give us a fair indication of whether Wriddhiman Saha is the man for the keeper-batsman job.
Bowling will definitely be India's weak link in Sri Lanka. They will be led by the erratic Ishant Sharma. Bhuvneshwar Kumar can keep things tight, but you never quite know what to expect from Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Ravichandran Ashwin is also back after missing the Bangladesh series while Harbhajan Singh gets another opportunity to add to his Test caps. Sri Lanka have struggled against Pakistan at home, so India will be hopeful of troubling them as well.
-- By A Cricket Analyst