Kolkata’s Eden Gardens cricket ground has hosted forty test matches over its storied history since becoming India’a second test venue in 1934, but never before has it welcomed Sri Lanka onto its hallowed turf. All that will change on Thursday, with the Lions due to make their long-awaited bow at India’s home of cricket in the first of a three-match Test series. Nagpur and Delhi will host the second and third matches respectively. These, remarkably, will be Sri Lanka’s first tests in India since 2009. A long time between drinks!
Sri Lanka have never won a Test match on Indian soil, having lost ten and drawn seven of the seventeen matches between the two sides held in India since the islanders were granted test status 35 years ago.
One suspects that this may not be the series where India’s dominance over their southern neighbours is broken. India are in supreme form in the longest form of the game, having lost only two of their last 30 tests, and having to look back nearly three years for their last series defeat. Their most recent test outfit was a 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka where the home side was rarely in contention. India are ranked number 1 in the ICC team rankings, and their ranking is not unjustified. The supreme form, allied with homefield advantage, makes Virat Kohli’s men strong favourites.
Sri Lanka have had a torrid time of things in 2017, with often embarrassing defeats suffered regularly throughout the year and captaincy changes a-plenty. They can at least point to their most recent Test series delivering a shock 2-0 series sweep against Pakistan in their temporary fortress of the UAE. Not many visiting teams have won tests in the emirates, let alone series, and Sri Lanka will be hoping this unexpected win will carry them on a crest of confidence as they head across the Palk Strait to the northerly neighbours.
There are plenty of individual milestones and potential records to keep an eye on as the Eden Gardens fixture unfolds:
Virat Kohli (India)
A regular feature of these pages, India’s superstar captain always seems to be on the verge of breaking another record or milestone. This time, focus will be on whether he can notch up a 50th international century for his country, having already scored 17 Test tonnes alongside 32 in ODIs.
R Ashwin (India)
Along with teammate Ravindra Jadeja, Ashwin is one half of India’s all conquering, spin-bowling, all-rounder double act. Jadeja is ahead of his fellow spin king in both the ICC bowler and all-rounder rankings, but Ashwin has more scores on the doors in terms of wickets. He currently sits with 292 victims to his name, and will fancy his chances of becoming only the fifth Indian bowler to reach the 300 milestone. Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan would be some pretty good company to be in should he join that exclusive club.
Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)
Sri Lanka have a spin-bowling superstar of their own in the ageless Herath, currently ranked as the fifth best test bowler in world cricket.
He current;y has 405 career test wickets in his kit bag, enough for joint twelfth in the all-time rankings, alongside West Indies legend Curtly Ambrose. Herath has a habit of picking up ten-wicket hauls, and one more in this game would see him edge past Wasim Akram’s 414 into eleventh place. A not entirely unrealistic thirteen wicket haul would see him move into the top ten, joining Harbhajan Singh from the host nation, and South Africa’s Dale Steyn on 417 wickets.
Dilruwan Perera (Sri Lanka)
Another spinner looking to make a mark in the Gardens, Perera will be hoping for seven wickets to take him from his current 93 to the 100 wicket milestone.
If he achieves it, he will move from a current seventh place in his country’s all-time wicket-taker list, past Sanath Jayasuriya in 6th on 98 and will join Dilhara Fernandon in fifth on the round 100. Lasith Malinga is just one further ahead on 101 in fourth, and not out of Dilruwan’s reach by any means.
Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka)
It has often been difficult to keep up with such things in 2017, but Chandimal is currently Sri Lanka’s Test captain. The skipper has 2.930 runs to his name so will be hoping for seventy more to take him past the 3,000 career milestone.