Sri Lanka V India, 1st Test, Galle: Sri Lanka Brace For Tougher Test

At a glance, Sri Lanka's recent home record is not so bad. They have won five of their six most recent Tests on the island and at least three of those victories were comprehensive. The whitewash over Australia, too, remains a source of enduring pride, even though it was achieved close to a year ago. Rangana Herath - the hero of that series - remains undiminished in his 40th year. Kusal Mendis, who produced that pivotal performance, has also since made headway, hitting another mammoth match-winning innings, in Galle, against Bangladesh.

And yet, there is fear in Sri Lanka that this series could go badly. Earlier this year, the hosts were beaten by Bangladesh for the first time ever and, less than two weeks ago, had been pushed by an even lower-ranked Zimbabwe side. How will they compete with India, the top-ranked Test team? How can Sri Lanka beat a side that, almost irrefutably, is fitter, better drilled, more confident and, probably, have comfier seats and softer suspension on their team bus?

Since their arrival on the island, India have even made the kinds of noises that teams, who are runaway favourites, tend to make. While on tougher tours, words like "challenge" and "big effort" dominate the pre-series talk, here, they have spoken of respecting the opposition. They had, after all, won the series in 2015, when the Sri Lanka team seemed to be in much better shape. While for Sri Lanka the two years since have been characterised by resignations, new faces and flux, India have rocked up with a very similar squad. Stability, consistency, and excellence - right now, India represent everything Sri Lanka are not.

Still, strange things happen on the island. No one expected a 3-0 thrashing of Australia last year, and, like a ball leaping out a footmark, that series produced a triumphant surprise for Sri Lanka. Besides, with so many developing players in their XI nothing is ever written in stone for Sri Lanka.