All eyes will again be on man-of-the-moment Kohli
After starting the new season with a comfortable victory, favourite India will be aiming to keep up the momentum when it takes on host Sri Lanka in the second cricket ODI here on Tuesday.
India cruised to a 21-run win over the islanders in the opening ODI — courtesy the in-form Virat Kohli, who smashed 106 and senior batsman Virender Sehwag who made a significant contribution with an innings of 96.
The strip at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium where the first ODI was played seemed to be a typical limited overs pitch where the batsmen have a field day once they get their eye in.
It is a wicket where ‘win the toss and bat first’ is the mantra for all captains and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was no different on the other day.
Although the windy conditions initially help the swing bowlers it is the batsmen who dominate in these conditions.
For India, it will be an advantage of sorts as Sri Lanka’s most consistent new ball bowler in recent times, Nuwan Kulasekara is out of the series with a groin injury sustained while trying to attempt a catch during the first ODI.
All eyes will again be on man-of-the-moment Kohli who has now scored four centuries in his last five appearances and is in the form of his life.
It would certainly boost his confidence that he has started the new season with a flawless century.
Ditto for Virender Sehwag, who had skipped the Asia Cup due to injury and was keen to get a headstart as it is supposed to be a long and hard season for Team India.
Gautam Gambhir will be keen to shrug off the disappointment of getting out cheaply in the first match and make amends in this game.
Suresh Raina and skipper Dhoni have always been pretty consistent in the shorter formats and their valuable contribution at the death overs certainly made a lot of difference.
Rohit Sharma’s indifferent form, however, sticks out like a sore thumb amid the good batting form of his team-mates. Having scored only two centuries in 81 ODIs certainly doesn’t do justice to his enormous promise.
A poor average of 32-plus is something that should definitely worry Rohit as he goes about trying to transform talent into match-winning performances.
However, it is unlikely that the Indian team management would tinker with the playing XI for at least another couple of matches unless it is forced to due to injury concerns.
Skipper Dhoni will, however, want his bowlers to up the ante after being penalised for slow over-rate in the last match.
All-rounder Irfan Pathan’s presence in the side lends the necessary balance. Although his pace has dropped considerably, his ability to get movement with the new ball is something that adds dimension to the attack considering Sri Lanka has an attacking batsmen in Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top of the order.
The Indians will also have to counter Kumar Sangakkara who hit a splendid 133 in the last match but ran out of partners.
Dilshan and skipper Mahela Jayawardene are the players who are not known to go through a prolonged bad patch and on their day can destroy any bowling attack in world cricket.
Senior pacer Zaheer Khan and young Umesh Yadav got a bit of stick in the earlier match and would strive to be more economical.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had the best figures in the match and did an admirable job to contain the batsmen in the middle overs.
The squads (from):
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt.), Angelo Mathews (vice-capt.), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Kapugedera, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake, Jeevan Mendis and Isuru Udana.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli (vice-capt.), Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma and Ashok Dinda.