Rohit Sharma begins a new era as India’s Test captain on Friday as the two-game series against Sri Lanka kicks off, while predecessor Virat Kohli makes a landmark 100th appearance.
Rohit is now in charge of all formats and succeeds Kohli who propelled India into the world rankings but failed to lift international silverware.
Rohit, 34, confirmed his leadership credentials with a white ball in a 3-0 Twenty20 sweep of Sri Lanka on Sunday that gave India a record-equaling 12th consecutive win.
Batsman Shreyas Iyer praised the new captain for his hands-on approach with players ahead of the game in Mohali.
“He’s great. He thinks from a player’s point of view,” Iyer told the Times of India newspaper.
“He has that mindset where he connects with each individual and knows what he needs from support staff and coaches. I really have a lot of respect for him.”
However, the spotlight will be on “King Kohli”, who shocked fans when he resigned as Test skipper after his 99th Test at the end of India’s 2-1 series loss in South Africa in January.
The star batsman, who stepped down as Twenty20 skipper last year and was subsequently sacked as ODI leader, led India to great heights, including staying at the top of the Test rankings for more than three years.
But Kohli’s inability to win a global trophy for a cricket-obsessed India seemed to be his downfall as a leader and Rohit was an obvious successor, leading the Mumbai Indians to a record five IPL titles.
At least fans will be able to see Kohli’s milestone after the Punjab Cricket Association withdrew to allow crowds up to 50 percent capacity in Mohali, despite Covid-19 fears in the northern city.
India’s new vice-captain Jasprit Bumrah, one of many possible younger successors to Rohit, said a win over Sri Lanka would be a perfect “gift” for Kohli.
“It is a testimony to his hard work, to his dedication to play 100 friendlies for your country. So it’s a great opportunity,” Indian Vice-Captain Jasprit Bumrah told reporters.
He added that while Kohli is no longer captain and has been short of runs in recent months, Kohli will “contribute a lot going forward too”.
Iyer will compete for a place in the Test eleven after his three consecutive unbeaten half-centuries led Indian T20 dominance in the Twenty20 series.
Sri Lanka tops the ICC Test championship points list with a 2-0 run from the West Indies after relying on their spinners in Galle, but the slow bowlers won’t find it easy against India’s solid batting setup .
India also features a powerful spin attack and Sri Lanka’s batsmen such as captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva will be challenged by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja operating on their own grounds.
“Dimuth Karunaratne is one of the best Test openers and he will play a vital role in the rankings,” said Sri Lankan cricketer-turned-commentary Russel Arnold, quoted by cricket.com.
“In the bowling department they have Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Lasith Embuldeniya and Suranga Lakmal. To win a Test match, you need to hold out for a longer period of time. I think this party can do that.”