Galle - India's dependable opener Murali Vijay has been ruled out of the first Test against Sri Lanka after failing to recover from a hamstring injury, team director Ravi Shastri said on Monday.
Vijay suffered the injury during last month's limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe, but was expected to recover in time for the start of the three-match series in Galle from Wednesday.
Shastri said the 31-year-old had not regained full fitness, dealing a major blow to the tourists' hopes of winning their first Test series in Sri Lanka in 22 years.
"Vijay has not fully recovered and we don't want to take a chance," Shastri told reporters at the Galle International Stadium.
"It's a big blow. He is the in-form player, had a fabulous run in Test cricket and has the ability to play long innings. He will be missed."
Vijay, who has scored 2,338 runs from 32 Tests at an average of 41.75 with six centuries, has been one of India's most consistent batsmen in recent times.
In his last 10 Tests for India, all of them in away series, Vijay has averaged 54.42 with three centuries and six half-centuries.
He is only one of four players in the touring squad - the others being bowlers Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra - who have played a Test in Sri Lanka before.
Vijay's absence gives 23-year-old Lokesh Rahul a chance to open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan.
Rahul, who scored a century against Australia in only his second Test earlier this year, made 43 and 47 for the tourists in the three-day practice match in Colombo last week.
India, now led by Virat Kohli, have not won a series in Sri Lanka since the 1-0 triumph under Mohammad Azharuddin in 1993.
Since then, the Indians have played four series on the island, losing in 2001 and 2008 while drawing in 1997 and 2010.