Momentum hasn’t made its presence felt at the ongoing tri-series in Sri Lanka. It has either been everything or nothing for all the three teams in each of the games. Keeping that in mind, there will be no favoured team as such when India take on Sri Lanka in yet another series final on Saturday. Whatever the result, both teams, as well as the spectators from both nations will heave a sigh of relief that the two teams won’t face each other very soon after this summit clash.
The Lankans may seem to have the slight advantage since they are playing at home, and also from the fact that their team wears a more balanced look compared to their familiar opponents. Unfortunately, though, recent history goes against them as the Indians have upstaged them in two tournaments in the last year or so. And thus, the home team will be keen to set the record straight this time round.
A glance at the two teams and the Lankans would definitely feel more confident this time round. They will be playing an injury-free side, with most of the players in form as well. After all, they upset India by a huge margin in their last game. A blessing in disguise for the Lankans is that Tillakaratne Dilshan hasn’t fired to the best of his potential as yet. The home team will be hoping he has reserved his best for the last. A lot can be expected from the experienced duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. If they fire, the lower order will become doubly dangerous.
Special mention needs to be made of the two all-rounders in the Lankan side. Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera – one a batting all-rounder and the other a bowling – lend enviable balance to the line up. What’s more Perera will be on a high following his five-for against the same opponent in the last league game, and while Mathews is yet to make a genuine impression, with his versatile skill, one is more or less assured that he can contribute in some manner or the other. The script only gets more pleasing as even Chamara Silva impressed in the one chance he got.
The bowling should be the last of Lanka’s worries at the moment. With Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga and Suraj Randiv preceding Mathews and Perera and all three among the wickets, skipper Sangakkara should be feeling highly assured of a good show. And so, if everything falls into place for them on the d-day, India could be in for a tough time.
Shifting focus to India, there need to be thankful to Virender Sehwag, who has somehow managed to keep India afloat in the series. With two match-winning scores, one while chasing (very unlike Sehwag) and the other while setting a target, the Delhi dynamo has been India’s one man army with the bat so far. The positive for the Lankans is that Sehwag is due for a failure, if they want to look at it that way. But then, with the maverick Indian opener, the law of averages theory doesn’t work, so there is no guarantee of what Sehwag will dish out on the day. One thing is for sure though, he won’t die wondering.
What Sehwag desperately needs is some support from the other end. It would be unfair to blame Dinesh Karthik for his failures since is just a makeshift and is trying to do a job for his team. However, India cannot afford to lose quick wickets in the final as well. Also, it is important for them to abandon the part-time theory and look for proper opening batsmen, may be someone like a Murli Vijay in case Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir are absent, at least when the ball is moving around.
Another worrying aspect about the Indians has been the performance of their young batsmen. While Virat Kohli can be excused considering he hasn’t had a permanent spot of late, the same cannot be said of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Despite being given ample opportunities, and a somewhat unfairly long run considering there are other youngsters around, they haven’t lived up to the potential. Jadeja has been decent with the bat but hasn’t proved worthy of a number seven till date. Sharma, on the other hand, is just not learning from the mistakes, which is a most worrisome aspect as far as India is concerned.
Rather ironically, the bowling has fared better, but that has had more to do with the conditions. Still Praveen Kumar’s early strikes in most of the games has given the bowling attack a potent look. Further, Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma too have contributed, and Munaf Patel’s success against the Kiwis could mean that he could be risked in the final, which would mean a four-pronged pace attack again.
All said and done, one only hopes that the conditions don’t play an overtly important role in determining the result, and also that the series of one-sided games is brought to a halt.
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