MUMBAI: Rohit Sharma will begin his reign as India's new test captain on Friday in a two-match series against neighbours Sri Lanka, hoping to keep the team's juggernaut rolling at home.
India have not lost at home in the longest format since their 2-1 defeat by England in 2012 and won their 14th consecutive rubber at home when they beat inaugural World Test Champions New Zealand at the end of last year.
Rohit's side will be firm favourites to extend their winning streak, having never lost a test match to Sri Lanka at home and their last defeat against the team coming way back in 2015 in the longest format.
Rohit was named India's test captain last month, succeeding batting talisman Virat Kohli as the team's leader in all three formats.
The opening batter from Mumbai is a proven leader in white-ball cricket, having led India to T20 series wins over New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka recently and also captaining the Mumbai Indians to five Indian Premier League titles.
Kohli, India's most successful test captain, stepped down after seven years in charge in a shock move last month following India's 2-1 series defeat in South Africa.
The spotlight will, however, continue to be on the 33-year-old Kohli in Mohali with the contest against Sri Lanka being his 100th test match for the country.
The match in the northern Indian city of Mohali was initially scheduled to be held without spectators due to COVID-19 but the Indian cricket board said on Tuesday that 50% capacity will be allowed for Kohli's milestone match.
The two-match series will also be the first in years when India will be without both Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara with both senior batters dropped due to inconsistent form.
Batter KL Rahul and all-rounder Washington Sundar are also missing with injuries.
It could open up a batting spot in the test side for Shreyas Iyer, who scored three unbeaten half-centuries in India's 3-0 victory in the T20 series against the same opponents.
The hosts could also unleash their first-choice spin duo of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin against Sri Lanka.
All-rounder Jadeja has returned to full fitness from a knee injury while Ashwin, who is in the squad, is expected to be available after recovering from an unspecified injury in January.
Sri Lanka have also welcomed back Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella in their test squad after their one-year suspension for breaching the team's bio-bubble protocols during last year's tour of England was lifted in January.
Lahiru Thirimanne has also returned to the Dimuth Karinaratne-led side, having opted out of Sri Lanka's previous test series against West Indies in November for the birth of his second child.
The second and final test will be played in Bengaluru from March 12 under lights.