Cricket

India will have a tough task against Lanka

IN SEARCH OF THAT ELUSIVE ONE! It has been exactly a year since Sachin Tendulkar scored his 99th century. Will the wait end here?

IN SEARCH OF THAT ELUSIVE ONE! It has been exactly a year since Sachin Tendulkar scored his 99th century. Will the wait end here?   | Photo Credit: Aijaz Rahi

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The subcontinental medley of politics and its effect on the streets was amply displayed here on Monday, but surely the Indian and Sri Lankan teams had no complaints ahead of their Asia Cup game.

The ‘Dhaka Cholo' (March to Dhaka) rally initiated by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party triggered anxieties over security and the two squads stayed back in the hotel. In a way, it was a welcome break for both teams, which have been on the road for a long time and had slugfests in Australia.

The last time, the Men in Blue and the visitors from the Emerald Isle, clashed in a match, Virat Kohli emphasised his growing stature with an unbeaten 133 at Hobart.

Huge difference

Over a week that was split between reverence for Rahul Dravid and the search for someone who will step into his huge boots, Kohli's name has done the maximum rounds, though as personalities there is a vast difference between the cultured legend and the ambitious youngster.

Kohli has been fast-tracked to the vice-captain's slot and the remarkable evolution in his fortunes has unfortunately not found a reflection in his peers. India will hope to change this trend at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on Tuesday. With its halo of being the World Cup champion dissipating even before the first anniversary, India has a lot at stake while defending its title in a tournament that has largely been its fiefdom since Sunil Gavaskar held the trophy at Sharjah in 1984.

Virender Sehwag's absence will give M.S. Dhoni the space to jettison the much-debated rotation policy. Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, who were part of the revolving door during the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia, will now have a settled run atop the order. In an anaemic run-chart, Gambhir was India's second highest run-scorer (308) in the CB Series while Tendulkar mustered 143 from seven outings. Tendulkar's failure to cast his imposing shadow on the field, a facet taken for granted ever since 1989, has hurt India.

And it has been exactly a year since he notched up his 99th international hundred — a 111 against South Africa at Nagpur in a World Cup game on March 12, 2011.

Youngsters' failure

More than the seniors, it was the failure of the young crop — Suresh Raina (182), Ravindra Jadeja (101) and Rohit Sharma (79) — that hastened India's downfall in Australia. Hopefully Dhaka's warm air will make them feel at home, though it remains to be seen who will take the place in the expected musical chairs between Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan.

The pitch during the match between Bangladesh and Pakistan displayed moments of spongy bounce before easing up under lights and that should keep the spinners interested during the first half of the match.

The Indian attack will have a tough task against a Sri Lankan outfit that held the upper hand until Kohli's assault at Hobart. The Sri Lankan coach Graham Ford though clarified that the results in Australia would have no bearing on the games here, as the conditions were different. Unlike India, which is still searching for its missing links in a vital transitory phase, Sri Lanka has found its feet thanks to the meshing of experience and youth over the last few months.

The core

Jayawardene, back in the captaincy saddle, has revved back to form and, along with Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews, forms the core that will determine Sri Lanka's fortunes.

Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne are expected to take the Sri Lankan batting forward in the years to come and Jayawardene said as much in a press conference on Saturday. Seamers Malinga (18) and Nuwan Kulasekara (12) grabbed a major share of the wickets in the CB Series but in these conditions, they need their spin allies to chip in too.

The selectors axed Rangana Herath from this squad, recalled leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna and the search for Muttiah Muralitharan's successor continues.

Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq had an interesting take on India and Sri Lanka. “They may have lost in Australia but the two teams have played in tough conditions and that makes them dangerous,” he said.

Tuesday will reveal the reality.

The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Virat Kohli (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan and Ashoke Dinda.

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Angelo Mathews (vice-captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Sachithra Senanayake, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna and Suranga Lakmal. Umpires: Ian Gould and Steve Davis; Third umpire: Shozab Raza; Match referee: David Boon.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m. IST.

(This article has been corrected for a factual error)

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:50:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/india-will-have-a-tough-task-against-lanka/article2987678.ece

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