There is not much left to play for. India have already clinched the series, their second successive series win in Sri Lanka. The series win was also the eighth straight triumph for the Virat Kohli-led side.

The consecutive wins has already helped skipper Kohli achieve what no other India skipper has done before. The 28-year-old now stands on the cusp of becoming the first Indian team to complete a whitewash in an overseas three-Test series when they meet a below-par Sri Lanka in the third and final match, starting in Pallekele on Saturday.

India have won the first two Tests by comprehensive margins – by 304 runs in Galle and an innings and 53 runs in Colombo.

The island nation, which has been going through a transition phase for quite some time, has decided to roll-out a green top with an aim to salvage some pride from the inconsequential game.

Rain threat

Two days before the match, it was difficult to differentiate the 22-yards from the lush green outfield of the Pallekele stadium. Photo: AFP
Two days before the match, it was difficult to differentiate the 22-yards from the lush green outfield of the Pallekele stadium. Photo: AFP

Their saving grace could be inclement weather after a spell of showers led to India’s practice session being cancelled on Friday, PTI reported.

By including pacers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage in their squad, replacing the injured duo of Nuwan Pradeep and Rangana Herath, the Lankans are aiming to strike back with pace.

Two days before the match, it was difficult to differentiate the 22-yards from the lush green outfield of the Pallekele stadium.

Kohli attended the pre-match press conference on Friday, but did not have a chance to look at the wicket. “The team management has gone to the stadium,” Kohli clarified. “We have heard that there were some changes that have been made to the pitch. They have gone to check how things look. So we will get some clarity on what we need to go in with,” he said.

The nature of the pitch may prompt Kohli to play his third specialist seamer in Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of the suspended Ravindra Jadeja. Bhuvneshwar has done well in the few chances he has got in the Test team during the Kohli era. For seaming conditions, he has been Kohli’s ‘Go To Man’.

However, there is a possibility that Bhuvneshwar, with his decent batting ability, will replace Hardik Pandya with chinaman Kuldeep Yadav playing as the second spinner.

Wrist spinner Kuldeep did wonderfully well on a bouncy Dharamsala track against Australia, where his four first innings wickets proved to be decisive.

The 28 Tests in which he has captained India so far, Kohli has not fielded the same XI. The pattern won’t change in the 29th Test as well,with Jadeja’s suspension.

Kohli, though, ruled out any major changes.

“We will look to retain the team that played the last Test as much as we can. We are not thinking of taking too many changes and risk losing the momentum. Especially in this format. We are not taking things lightly. So, we will not look to make drastic changes,” Kohli said.

Chasing a whitewash

India have never won a full Test series overseas. Photo: AFP
India have never won a full Test series overseas. Photo: AFP

How big a 3-0 series win will be is still debatable considering the quality of the opposition. But considering that India have never won a full Test series overseas, 85 years since their debut in 1932, it will be praiseworthy if they go on to win the final Test of the series.

It will be interesting to note that India also do not have too many whitewashes at home to show for their efforts.

In all, India have played four such series where they have won all Test matches. Two such series were under Mohammed Azharuddin’s captaincy - 3-0 against England in 1993 and an identical margin versus Sri Lanka in 1994.

Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India outplayed Australia 4-0 in the 2013 home series while Kohli led the side during the 3-0 rout of New Zealand, last year.

Among their memorable overseas Test series (two or more victories) wins will be the Kapil Dev-led side winning 2-0 in a three-match series in England in 1986, beating Pakistan 2-1 in 2004, 2-1 in Sri Lanka in 2015 and the first one – 3-1 in New Zealand under Tiger Pataudi way back in 1967-68.

When it comes to two-Test series, India have won 2-0 in Bangladesh (2004-05), Zimbabwe (2005-06) and Bangladesh again (2009-10).

“For us its another Test match,” Kohli said. “We have already won another series. You cannot look at such things and go into the game. I personally feel its a distraction. We need to stay in the present and just aim to win the game,” he added.

A win in the third Test will also strengthen chief coach Ravi Shastri’s claim that “this team is capable of breaking new ground.”

It will be interesting if team management decides to shuffle the combination now that they have won the series. The team management may think of giving Abhinav Mukund another chance while Rohit Sharma is still waiting to play his first Test since October.

Squads

India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Axar Patel.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjay de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Gamage, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara.