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India keen to get back to winning ways against Lanka

Last updated on: November 15, 2009 21:54 IST

India keen to get back to winning ways against Lanka

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India will look to put behind the disappointment of their one-day drubbing at the hands of Australia and bounce back to winning ways when they take on Sri Lanka in the first match of a three-Test series starting in Ahmedabad on Monday.

For this to happen, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men would have to switch into the Test mode from the more frenetic one-day frame of mind when they go into the first Test at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera. 

The Indian team has had a non-stop dish of limited-over cricket, 50-over and Twenty20, over the last six months and played their last Test series against New Zealand in March-April early this year.

The Indian middle order has been bolstered by the return of Test specialists Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who were not part of the squad that lost to Australia after squandering a 2-1 lead by losing the next three matches in-a-row. 

Both Dravid and Laxman, especially the former, are coming into the match on the back of some good displays in the Ranji Trophy and would be eager to hit the straps. 


Image: Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid attend a practice session in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Reuters
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Motera has a strong sense of history

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The Indian top order functioned in fits and starts in the one-day rubber against the Aussies with swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag playing all-too-brief cameos.

The home team would be looking forward to the Delhi dasher taming the vastly inexperienced Sri Lanka bowling with his partner Gautam Gambhir. 

The match also is a landmark for Sachin Tendulkar as he steps into his 21st year in international cricket. 

With a strong sense of history he would be keen as ever to make the Test another occasion to remember. 

Incidentally, it was at this ground that Sunil Gavaskar became the first man to complete 10,000 Test runs against Pakistan in March, 1987 and Kapil Dev overhauled Richard Hadlee's record to become the highest wicket taker in Tests against Sri Lanka in February, 1994.


Image: Indian captain MS Dhoni plays soccer with teammate Murali Vijay in Ahmedabad

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Zaheer's return has boosted India's hopes

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The return of the experienced Zaheer Khan from a five-month injury lay-off has also boosted India's hopes against the Lankans who are determined to set right their winless Test record in this country in 14 previous attempts, that includes eight defeats.

Khan has showed he has recovered well from his shoulder injury by bowling long spells in Ranji Trophy for Mumbai and also taking wickets. 

His presence should also boost the confidence of Ishant Sharma who did not have the guidance of the experienced left-arm pacer for a long time and has seen his form dip.

The presence of S Sreesanth, recalled to the team for the first time since April, 2008, as the third seamer in the squad would also perk up the gangling Sharma, who is expected to share the new ball with Khan in the series opener.


Image: Zaheer Khan speaks with captain MS Dhoni as Harbhajan Singh watches in Ahmedabad

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India has two wins over Lanka at Ahmedabad

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India are likely to go into the match with two spinners. Harbhajan Singh would be the first choice and the other would be a choice between Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha.

The hosts do not have a great memory of their last Test in Motera, when they were skittled in 20 overs for a paltry 76 after opting to bat first in the first session of play by the South African fast bowlers in April 2008. 

They went on to lose the Test by an innings and 90 runs, their worst defeat at home in nearly half a century. 

India's overall record in Tests played at this stadium is three victories, two losses and four draws in nine matches since 1983.

More importantly they have beaten Lanka by big margins on both the occasions previously at this venue - by an innings and 17 runs in 1994 and by 259 runs in December, 2005. 


Image: Laxman, Yuvraj, Dravid and Dhoni play soccer in Ahmedabad

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Sri Lanka will look to spin

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Sri Lanka, who have come to India boosted by back-to-back Test series wins over New Zealand and Pakistan at home, would also fancy their chances if the track takes spin early - with the presence of three tweakers - including the world's leading Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan - in their ranks. 

The previous Test series between the two countries was dominated by unorthodox slow bowler Ajantha Mendis with his carom balls but since then Dhoni and his men seem to have found a way to play the bowler well, at least in ODIs.


Image: Virender Sehwag attends a practice session in Ahmedabad

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