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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Virat Kohli's India want to be challenged by Sri Lankan cricket stars

Hosts' captain is hoping to get as much preparation for tours of South Africa

India's captain Virat Kohli, right, is wary of complacency. Bikas Das / AP Photo
India's captain Virat Kohli, right, is wary of complacency. Bikas Das / AP Photo

India want underdogs Sri Lanka to force them into an "uncomfortable" zone in their latest Test series starting on Thursday, captain Virat Kohli said.

Kohli said his world No 1 Test side have to use the series to toughen up ahead of their visit to South Africa in January and England later in 2018.

"If you can embrace playing in difficult conditions that will be the difference," Kohli said. "We want to be uncomfortable, we want to embrace being uncomfortable and that's the most important thing.

"We want to build our games in such a way that we want to look forward to playing anywhere in the world."

India are unbeaten in a home series in any format since being defeated by South Africa in a one-day challenge in 2015.

Indian players train in Kolkata

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Sri Lanka are yet to win a Test on Indian soil, but they head for the opener in Kolkata with renewed hopes after winning two Tests against Pakistan in the UAE last month.

Sri Lanka do not have happy memories from their last encounter against the Indians.

They lost all three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 international at home in July-September.

The humiliating show prompted Sri Lanka's selection panel, led by batting hero Sanath Jayasuriya, to resign.

Kohli said India and Sri Lanka had to put on an exciting show to ward off suggestions that some of the sheen has been stripped from the series because the neighbours have played so many times in recent years.

The two played Tests in Sri Lanka in 2015 then a limited-overs series in India in 2016, ahead of the two tours this year.

India will travel to Sri Lanka in 2018 to play the Independence Cup T20 tournament.

Kohli acknowledged the risk of overkill.

"It definitely has to be taken into consideration because you don't want fans going away from the game," he said.

"We have to maintain a balance of how to engage fans and keep players fresh at the same time and keep cricket exciting and keep it competitive through out the year. That point will be discussed in future definitely."

Kohli said India "have to be at our absolute top intensity all the time".

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Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal confirmed meanwhile that veteran Angelo Mathews will bat at the key No 4 position, but will not bowl as he recovers from injury.

"He gives us confidence as a batting unit," Chandimal said. "He will bat at number four. He has all the experience, and at the top of the order, and we will get maximum out of it."

Mathews has not scored a Test hundred since August 2015, typifying Sri Lanka's slump in the past three years.

The second Test begins on November 24 in Nagpur with the final match in Delhi from December 2. The two sides will also play three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches.