It is 22 years since India last won a Test series in Sri Lanka and the upcoming tour which comprises three Tests provides an opportunity for the visitors to end that barren run.
India won under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin in 1993 the three-Test series 1-0 but since then they have toured Sri Lanka on four occasions in 1997 (0-0), 2001 (1-2 lost), 2008 (1-2 lost) and 2010 (1-1 drawn) and failed to win a series.
The last occasion India were here five years ago marked the farewell Test for off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan at Galle. The champion spinner bowled his team to victory in the first Test taking eight wickets and in the process became the only cricketer in history to take 800 Test wickets.
The forthcoming series will see another cricketing icon from Sri Lanka bidding farewell to the game when Kumar Sangakkara makes his final appearance for his country in the second Test of the series at the P Sara Oval on August 20.
Last August against Pakistan, Mahela Jayawardene retired from Test cricket on a high with Sri Lanka winning the Test played at the SSC by 105 runs.
The Sri Lanka team under the captaincy of Angelo Mathews will be hoping to give Sangakkara a similar victorious farewell for the yeoman service he has rendered to Sri Lanka cricket in the past 15 years.
But as the players themselves will tell you such sentiments are best left aside and they concentrate playing their normal game without any outside distractions.
Sri Lanka coming into international cricket after a three-month lay-off following the World Cup in March lost the three-match series to Pakistan 1-2. Their downfall was largely due to the brilliant performance of leg-spinner Yasir Shah who went onto capture 24 wickets at an average of 19.33. No other Pakistani bowler took more than six wickets in the series that was dominated by Yasir.
Having recognized Sri Lanka’s weakness against leg-spin has convinced the Indian selectors to recall 32-year-old Amrit Mishra to Test cricket after four years. Mishra played the last of his 13 Tests against England at the Oval in 2011. He replaces injured leg-spinner Karn Sharma in the squad.
Mishra and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh 35 will play a supporting cast to lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The fast bowling department in the absence of Mohammad Shami (knee surgery) will be manned by Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
Virat Kohli who first captained his country in Australia last year when MS Dhoni was injured will lead India in a full Test series for the first time. In his 34-Test career Kohli has not played a single Test against Sri Lanka and will be making his debut against the Asian neighbours when he leads them out in the first Test at Galle starting on August 12.
How serious Kohli is to succeed as captain can be gauged by the fact that he opted to play in the second and final unofficial test between India A and Australia A at Chepauk where conditions were similar to that in Sri Lanka.
India are coming on the back of a drawn one-off Test against Bangladesh largely ruined by bad weather. Prior to that Test they have lost their last four Test series to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, and will be keen to get back to winning ways.
As in the series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka will have the services of Sangakkara for the first two Tests. They will be hard pressed to find a replacement for him as well as Jayawardene in the immediate future. To fill the void left by them Sri Lanka recalled Upul Tharanga and Jehan Mubarak for the Pakistan series, but yet finished on the losing side.
India won’t be any easier either if not tougher than Pakistan with their array of stroke-makers on top of the order which is bound to test the Lankan bowling to the maximum. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath had a poor series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be hoping that he will regain his confidence and form, if not they will be terribly depleted in that department which is sorely lacking in experience.
In the ICC Test rankings only five points separate fifth placed India (97) and seventh placed Sri Lanka (92), depending on which way the series swings either team can improve their positions.