Will Yuvraj, Dhoni’s absence benefit Lanka?

23 Dec 2009 by Mahendra Prasad in India Sri Lanka ODI Series 2009

yuvraj-dhoniIs this the stroke of luck Sri Lanka needed? For the first time in five years, India will be without the two lynchpins of their middle-order – skipper MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, one serving a ban and the other ruled out due to a recurrence of his finger injury. Moreover, Lanka have fond memories of the venue for the fourth and crucial ODI. Thirteen years ago, it was here at Eden Gardens, Kolkata that a rampaging Lankans knocked India out of the World Cup in an embarrassing fashion. So despite being 2-1 down, they still have enough going for them. It’s now up to the visitors to exploit the situation to the hilt.

Let’s not be unfair to India though. Considering that they won at Cuttack in an extremely handsome fashion, the home side will start as favourites even in the absence of Dhoni and Yuvraj. In Virender Sehwag, they have a positive stand-in skipper and a batsman whose credentials do not need to be discussed. It will help that he has been in great form. Additionally, Sachin Tendulkar too has played with a lot of comfort. His knock at Cuttack should given the side further assurance that they can afford a somewhat brittle middle-order. While Sehwag and Tendulkar have been among the runs, the same cannot be said around Gautam Gambhir. And so India would be hoping that the southpaw has a big one reserved for Kolkata.

Coming back to the middle-order, this game will be a great opportunity for the youngsters to stand up and show what stuff they are made of. Suresh Raina will get an opportunity to bat up the order, and it’s about time he starts converting his 30s and 40s into big scores. Ditto with Virat Kohli. In his short stint at the international level, it has been observed that Kohli loses focus after getting a good start and looking well set for a big score. Here’s a chance for him to set the record straight. Among the others, Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja would be expected to chip in if needed.

As has been the case throughout the series, the Indian bowling and fielding, in particular, will be under the scanner. The pacemen continued to struggle in the third ODI and it was only due to the efforts of the spinners that India could make a superb comeback. While it is good news that the Eden Gardens pitch will offer assistance to the slow bowlers in the latter half of the innings, the fast bowlers will have to put up a better show else the efficiency of the spinners will automatically be reduced.

One should also be careful of not putting excessive pressure on Jadeja, the bowler. While it is true that he bowled excellently in the last game, it is also a fact that he’s more of a part-time spinner and won’t be as successful consistently. That responsibility is still to be shouldered by Harbhajan Singh. If Jadeja manages to get through his quota of overs without being overtly expensive and picks up the odd wicket, he will have done his bit. And if India succeeds in wrapping up the series at Kolkata, the team too would have done its job well.

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