Dropping Rohit Sharma would be a travesty for India
Colombo: Overseas cricket tours are tricky. It doesn't really matter how early you reach and how hard you practice to get used to the conditions, for you are always slightly undercooked at the start of the series.
Rohit Sharma after a practice session ahead of the second Test at the P Sara Oval yesterday. Pic/Solaris Images
There are things that are always unknown to you like how a certain pitch is likely to behave on the fourth-fifth day and at times, in the case of Galle, even on the first day. Then there's a small matter of crowd getting behind the home team, which allows them to convert a small advantage into an unstoppable wave called 'momentum'.
That's why a win in the first Test is considered a blessing but, unfortunately, a loss is not too different from a curse. Indians are likely to understand the gravity of their loss in Galle in the remaining two Test matches of this series.
For starters if the home team has got the lead after the first Test, the pitches for the remaining games become uncharacteristically flat. For example, the pitch at the P Sara Oval, the venue today's second Test, is notoriously famous for greenery and help for the faster men but it won't be too surprising to see that the grass mower has been put to good use for this particular match.
After losing the first Test India are forced to do the running around and force a result but that's never easy on a flat pitch. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, can happily wait for things to unfold at it own pace. While a victory masks a lot of weaknesses, losses tend to highlight them and that leads to an unrelenting demand to address them immediately.
Pressure on Kohli
The way Indian batting capitulated in Galle it's not difficult to imagine the pressure on Kohli to make the right changes. While there's merit in dropping players who haven't looked a part, there's more merit in sticking with the players who are likely to come good later and are a part of team's bigger game plan.
In this case, Harbhajan Singh and Rohit Sharma's spots are under severe scrutiny ahead of the second Test. While benching the offie is an easy option if the captain goes ahead with a three pacers and two spinners combo, dropping Rohit isn't that straightforward.
Kohli showed a lot of faith in Rohit's abilities at No 3 and played him ahead of Pujara in the only Test match against Bangladesh last month. Now, it'll not only be a travesty of justice if Rohit is dropped after three low scores but also will show the team management's decision making in poor light.
But when the team has collapsed the way it did in Galle, the temptation to reinstate Pujara to play the sheetanchor role is too strong to resist. Who said that being an India captain is an easy job? Last but not the least, Kohli's choice of five bowlers will also give us an insight into his faith in his resources. Will he play Binny ahead of a genuine bowler because Binny can bat a bit or will he stick to his theory of playing five proper bowlers?
Playing Binny might provide India with some batting stability in the lower middle order but it'll also significantly reduce the chances of picking 20 Sri Lankan wickets in quick time.
Still, if India plays Binny in place of Harbhajan, it'll be a clear departure from the five-bowler theory that this young team talked about so much in the recent past. If I were given a choice to pick the team for today, I'd pick Bhuvneshwar in place of Harbhajan and Vijay in place for injured Dhawan.
The writer is a former India opening batsman