GALLE - Only one of the last eight Tests played at the Galle International Cricket Stadium has ended in a draw, when Mushfiqur Rahim became Bangladesh’s first double centurion in a tall-scoring affair in March 2013.

The first Test in the first series between Sri Lanka and India in five years could follow suit if the rain in this southern port city stays heavy. The massive downpours on Tuesday, the eve of the Test, were ominous but the good thing here is that it doesn’t rain continuously for any stretch of time.

Jayananda Warnaweera, the head curator, was confident that there would be enough play for Galle to live up to its reputation of being one of the more result-orientated grounds in the world. Nineteen of the 25 Tests here have ended decisively, thanks to a surface that bowlers generally enjoy bowling on, and the entire outfield is covered in little time by Warnaweera’s army of ground staff at the first hint of a rain. So unless it rains reasonably heavily for considerable periods of time, the ground will be fit for meaningful action more often than not.

Neither Sri Lanka, coming off a 1-2 loss to Pakistan last month in a rare setback at home, nor India, who hasn’t won a Test match for a year now, would be particularly excited by the prospect of the elements calling the shots. Armed with a new mindset whose origin can be traced back to its dynamic captain, India is determined to end a 22-year winless series streak on Sri Lanka soil. For the home side that will bid adieu to Kumar Sangakkara in less than a fortnight, the immediate opportunity to cast aside the loss against Pakistan, when the visiting side chased down 377 in the fourth innings of the final Test, couldn’t be better timed.

Sri Lanka is a side in transition in the middle order, in the post-Mahela Jayawardene phase. There is some stability at the top with Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne finding their groove, but the the middle order revolves around Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, the captain. Missing from India’s plans for this game is M Vijay, the opener who has been such a vital cog in the wheel for a year and a half now. KL Rahul is a good replacement, but Vijay has come to exemplify stability and solidity, so it will be now up to the entire top order numbering five to start chipping in equally if India is to consider playing five full-time bowlers on a more regular basis.

Rohit Sharma will bat at No. 3 for at least the length of this series and get a chance to cement a spot, while Virat Kohli, the captain, will be keen to get some good runs too. India’s avowed desire to play the extra bowler will give Kohli greater teeth to attack with in the quest for 20 wickets, but it will also mean the specialist batsmen – including Wriddhiman Saha, the stumper – will have to shoulder more of the batting load.

The Galle strip, slightly dry underneath despite the rains though a little damp on top, and abrasive enough to excite the reverse-swingers, is one to test batsmen so India will need its batting order to pull through the tough periods.

R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh will bowl in tandem for a second Test in a row, though it is unlikely that they will have a third spinning mate in Amit Mishra, given the rain among other things. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will return to Rangana Herath as the senior spinner after having benched him for the Pallekele match against Pakistan. Herath and Tharindu Kaushal will hope for Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep, back to full fitness from injury, to do the early damage, especially with the cutting edge of Dushmantha Chameera still not fit enough to take his place on the park.

The fire of Kohli against the ice of Mathews. India’s hunger against Sri Lanka’s desire. Two mid-table teams eyeing a climb up the Test charts. No lack of context. Or occasion, given the Sangakkara situation. All to play for, then.


SRI LANKA: Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews (capt), Jehan Mubarak, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dhammika Prasad, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Pradeep, Rangana Herath, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera.

INDIA: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Cheteshwar Pujara.