Nagpur – A green tinge across the wicket when the second Test between India and Sri Lanka starts Friday indicates a fast-paced challenge, with India captain Virat Kohli looking ahead to overseas tours.
Bowling tracks in India traditionally help spinners but in the opening drawn Test in Kolkata fast bowlers took centre-stage.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar led an inspired Indian pace attack that took all of the 17 Sri Lankan wickets that fell during the game.
The pitches in Nagpur and Delhi are also expected to help seamers as the world’s top Test team prepares to tour South Africa starting in January.
“It is very clear that we are preparing for the next two years that we are going to travel abroad,” Indian opener Lokesh Rahul said.
“We will play lot of cricket overseas and find wickets like this and it is going to be challenging for all of us. So we wanted to prepare in that way,” he added.
India prepared a spinner’s paradise at Nagpur’s Jamtha ground when the hosts packed off South Africa inside three days in 2015.
The pitch was rated “poor” by the International Cricket Council governing body because the ball turned dangerously at times.
However reports say the grass on the Nagpur wicket pitch is expected to remain for the five-day game against Sri Lanka.
With Kumar pulling out of the remaining two Tests because of his upcoming marriage, Ishant Sharma is expected to take up the role of the third seamer.
Sri Lanka also have a strong pace attack led by Suranga Lakmal, who returned impressive figures of 7-119 at Eden Gardens.
Lakmal, Dasun Shanaka and Lahiru Gamage shared the spoils while bowling out India for 172 in the first innings of the opening Test.
Even though India turned the tables and gave the islanders a mighty scare on the final day, coach Nic Pothas was upbeat about Sri Lanka’s chances in the series.
“I’m more excited about how we fought and came out the other end,” Pothas said of his side that is ranked sixth in the ICC table.
“Actually, you’re looking at one day or a couple of hours of cricket, I’m looking at four days of cricket where we played very good cricket,” Pothas said.
Sri Lanka, who have never won a Test in India, have put up a much improved showing since their 9-0 whitewash against India across all three formats earlier this year.
They beat Pakistan in two Tests in the United Arab Emirates before coming to India.
“I think you always set a goal to improve,” said Pothas.
“We had a series in Sri Lanka where we did not compete at all. We’ve come here, and we’ve actually been very competitive in the first Test match.
Pothas said the Sri Lankans can see they are getting “tougher.”
“So we’ll see if we can continue to ride that wave.”