When it was put to M.S. Dhoni that India was in many eyes the favourite to win the Champions Trophy, having started otherwise, his reaction was the obvious one.
“I think it was started by you guys and ended by you guys,” he said, slipping into a wry smile. “We just came here to play some good cricket, and that’s what we have been doing.”
India’s opponent in the semifinal is an endlessly common one. But that familiarity would not be an advantage to any one team, Dhoni felt.
“It works the same for both sides. If we say we find it easier, then it would be the same for Sri Lanka. It's just that we play quite often; either we go to Sri Lanka or they come to India, and we also have the Asia Cup.
“It helps both the sides to prepare themselves really well, and you can cut off those extra 15 minutes of time that you would have spent in a team meeting,” he said.
India’s past record over Sri Lanka, including victory in the World Cup final, would not matter under these different circumstances, Dhoni stated. “A significant amount of changes have been made to the (ODI) format; so I don't think we can really count all those stats. It’s also the fact that both the teams are looking very different (since the World Cup). Sri Lanka has a really good squad but they are going through a phase where they are missing some of their players,” he said.
Mathews is upbeat
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, believed his side was capable of putting it past India.
“There's no word called revenge in sport, but if we can beat the Indians, it will be a great achievement for the whole team because there are thoughts about the World Cup final, and the recent history against them is not very good,” he said.
“But on our day we can beat any team.”
Mathews praised his troops’ qualities, of being able to dig their way out of trouble.
“We are a fighting team and we fight to the last moment,” he said. “All three games went down to the wire, and we had to fight really hard to win. So the team confidence is very high.”