There is a standing joke about India-Sri Lanka matches that cricket-lovers revel in narrating and revisiting. It involves the two nations playing each other ceaselessly; so much so that it’s hard to tell one series from another.
However, over the last two years or so, the quantum of action between them has come down considerably.
They last met during the tri-series in the West Indies in June-July 2013. So in some ways, the tedium that surrounded those earlier games mightn’t show up during their Asia Cup duel at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, here on Friday.
Also, a victory in their respective opening fixtures might just motivate them to amp up the performances.
Nevertheless, they won’t be oblivious to where they went wrong in the first match. Like for instance, from India’s perspective, Varun Aaron’s bowling.
While he is undeniably quick, his one-dimensional bowling against Bangladesh on Wednesday — that was heavily reliant on the fuller length — turned out to be no more than cannon fodder. That there is little variation in terms of length or pace is a sure-fire recipe for run-leaks, particularly on the even-tempered surface here.
Ishwar Pandey, the strapping Madhya Pradesh pacer, could be in the reckoning. If skipper Virat Kohli looks at padding up the batting, he might well call upon Stuart Binny’s services.
The latter’s accurate seamers won’t be a bad idea, especially after the impact Afghanistan’s medium-pacer Mirwais Ashraf had on Thursday.Opening slackness
There is also the slackness in the opening department that needs rectifying. Slow, laboured efforts from Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma like the ones against Bangladesh don’t give other batsmen the luxury of launching attacks from a strong base.
Especially in Sharma’s case, whenever he takes time to bed in and then gets out, the scoring-rate is severely compromised. It’s uncertain, though, if India would want to swap Sharma with Cheteshwar Pujara. India didn't train on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is banking on its bowling to prey on India’s inexperienced middle-order. “With [M.S] Dhoni not there, we might have a good chance if we can take early wickets,” said Sri Lanka’s vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal.
Sri Lanka, nevertheless, should be aware of how its own middle-order crumbled after Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara set things up for a 300-plus score.
Chandimal also hinted that Ajantha Mendis had a good chance of being part of the playing eleven.
“They chase well, but we have a good bowling attack. We have something up our sleeves for them tomorrow,” said Chandimal.
The 24-year-old believed Sri Lanka had the edge as it’s knowledge of the conditions was better having played a series against Bangladesh here recently.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Varun Aaron, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, K. Dinesh Karthik (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Chaturanga de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Ashan Priyanjan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.
Play starts at 1.30 p.m. (IST).