Galle, Aug 11: Virat Kohli's aggressive strategy to deploy five specialist bowlers will be tested when India go into the 3-match Test series against Sri Lanka here tomorrow (August 12), hoping to end a 22-year-old wait for a series triumph on Sri Lankan soil.
While the baton had passed on to him from MS Dhoni in Sydney, this is Kohli's first full assignment in-charge after the one-off-Test in Bangladesh. (Vijay to miss 1st Test)
Kohli has already promised to provide an aggressive brand of leadership and go into Test matches with five bowlers in a bid to take 20 wickets. (Shastri's message to the team)
His journey as Test skipper had begun in Adelaide where he stood-in for Dhoni on account of injury, and led India valiantly to a 48-run loss, despite two sterling hundreds in both innings.
In Sydney, he was defiant in the mannerism of his team selection, chopping and changing a side worn down by poor form, injury and fatigue.
At Fatullah, he persisted with the 5-bowler theory, and also brought back a Test stalwart -Harbhajan Singh - back to the side.
If pre-series warm-up and practice sessions are anything to go by, in summation, all of the above points will continue to feature in Kohli's strategy in this series as well.
With Murali Vijay ruled out of the first Test owing to a troublesome right hamstring since the Zimbabwe tour, Kohli will have his task cut out to bring in the young KL Rahul into the playing eleven.
It is after the opening slots that things get interesting, primarily owing to form, but the team management is expected to follow a set template. At present, among the batsmen, only Ajinkya Rahane is untouchable and he fits in easily at number five.
Rohit Sharma, Kohli himself and Wriddhiman Saha were off colour in the practice match. It is a tad too early to deem them out of touch, given that they had all experienced some time off.
Yet, their run-scoring patterns, since the Australian tour, have been indifferent. Kohli was immaculate in the Test series Down Under, with four hundreds in as many matches.
Since then, his limted-overs' form tailed off, despite starting the World Cup with a hundred against Pakistan. He didn't reach double digits in four ODIs prior to that match, and in ten matches afterwards, his highest score is 46.
As an individual batsman, the skipper is a big-game player, and he will feed off the energetic experience of leading the side.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Varun Aaron.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-captain), Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Jehan Mubarak, Kusal Perera, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhammika Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera (subject to fitness).
Match starts 10 AM IST
LIVE on Sony SIX (English commentary) and Sony KIX (Hindi)