India in Sri Lanka 2017

Sri Lanka vs India, Preview: A fresh beginning for the Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli partnership

The Indian captain was still easing into his role in 2015. Two years later, he is a different personality altogether.

The cycle of Indian cricket has yet again turned to Sri Lanka in the hope of providing a fresh beginning.

It was in 2015 when India went to Sri Lanka to play Virat Kohli’s first full series as a captain. It started off on a bad note, a dispiriting loss in the first Test followed by a tremendous turnaround to win the series 2-1.

Since then, India have not taken a step back, winning every Test series they have played in. They return to the island country as the No 1 Test team, firm favourites. But this series will also herald the start of something new: the beginning of the era of new head coach Ravi Shastri.

Stranger in a familiar land

Of course, it is important to remember that the new head coach is not a stranger to this team. As the former team director, he is more than familiar with this team’s members, having memorably roused them after their defeat in Galle in the first Test last year. In one way, his elevation to head coach from team director is not much more than a titular formality.

In another way though, and thanks to the nasty events of the last two months, it is something bigger. From the time, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced applications for the coach’s post to previous incumbent Anil Kumble’s resignation to Ravi Shastri’s appointment, it has been a protracted, dragged-out period of chaos. Shastri wasn’t even in the running in the first round, he tossed in his hat later.

From Anil Kumble's resignation to Ravi Shastri's appointment, it's been an eventful couple of months for Indian cricket. (Image credit: AFP/PTI)
From Anil Kumble's resignation to Ravi Shastri's appointment, it's been an eventful couple of months for Indian cricket. (Image credit: AFP/PTI)

And hence while Sri Lanka may not be lofty opposition – they are currently ranked seventh in Tests, lost an One-Day International series to Zimbabwe and had to put in a superhuman effort to beat the same opposition in the lone Test – this series will be important because it finally gives the chance for Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri and the rest of the team to put the chaos behind them and breathe in to a fresh beginning.

And make no mistake, for all the platitudes they have sung, it will not be easy.

A change of fate

For one, 2017 is not 2015. Then Virat Kohli was still a young, fresh skipper. He was still feeling his way into the captaincy, tweaking, realising, understanding. Now, he is a confident leader in charge of a world-beating (at least, at home) team. He is the undisputed leader, among the best batsmen of his generation. The Kohli which Shastri nurtured in 2015 has matured into a lean, solid winning machine in 2017.

But there may have also been a personality change. The Kohli in 2017 may be much more guarded, much more cynical, much less respecting of dissent as he was in 2015. The Anil Kumble reign and its subsequent ugly fallout may have made him a different character and one which Ravi Shastri will have to adapt to.

Virat Kohli was still feeling his way into the captaincy in 2015. (Image credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Virat Kohli was still feeling his way into the captaincy in 2015. (Image credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

And then, even Shastri will know he is under the weight of expectation. His appointment as coach did not received universal applause and there was much criticism directed at the BCCI for the way in which they went about the entire process. The long imbroglio with the Cricket Advisory Committee over the nature of the coaching staff did not paint Shastri in much glory. He is now the new head coach but he will be aware, along with the captain that even the slightest misjudgement now will open the floodgates of criticism.

Tougher gigs await

Sri Lanka should also, in theory, be the easiest of away tours for India but it has be treated as preparation ground for more important assignments. India travel to South Africa later this year and England in 2018, two places where they have never enjoyed much success. It’s a trend which Virat Kohli has admitted he wants to change. These are not the ideal circumstances to begin a fresh assault at a peak which has stubbornly remained unconquered – but adversity has often seen this Indian team punch way above their best.

Moving away from Kohli and Shastri, two other players will also be under heightened expectations, this series. Shikhar Dhawan has not played a Test match in Indian colours since October 2016 against New Zealand. Injuries and loss of form have kept the 31-year-old left-hander, once a certainty in the team, out of it. He has rediscovered his mojo in coloured clothing, but Murali Vijay’s injury has given him another chance to stake his claim.

Shikhar Dhawan (right) and Rohit Sharma (left), India's limited-overs openers, will want to be at their best in the Test series in Sri Lanka. (Image credit: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)
Shikhar Dhawan (right) and Rohit Sharma (left), India's limited-overs openers, will want to be at their best in the Test series in Sri Lanka. (Image credit: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)

Then there is Rohit Sharma. He has often been criticised for not replicating his incredible ODI batting form into the Test arena but silenced quite a few doubters when he hit three consecutive fifties in three Tests in the New Zealand Test. Unfortunately, injury took him out of the team and it seemed like he was set for a long period out when Karun Nair slammed a triple century against England.

But Nair’s run of poor scores since then has opened the door for Sharma again and it is imperative that he grabs it. That lower middle order has, at times, been a cause of concern for India and Sharma, more than the other contenders for that spot, is a great fit. The reason is, he is not unduly troubled by the short ball which will put him in great stead in overseas conditions against the second new ball. He is also an aggressive batsman and quite capable of launching a counter-attack against an opposition just when they believe India are on the ropes.

The picturesque Galle fort as a backdrop, the lilting papare band, the rhythm of the sea waves...Sri Lanka conjures up images of relaxation and rest. That is what Shastri, Kohli and the Indian team will be hoping for – a series to put the ugliness of the past and the heartbeak of the Champions Trophy final behind and once more, focus only on cricket.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.