|Confident India look to wrap up series in Colombo|
Zeecric Bureau/Biswajit Jha
Before India started their Lankan campaign, it was seen as the battle between the famed Indian batting and the Lankan spin, consisting of the ever threatening Murali and mysterious Mendis. Now two ODIs into the 5-match series, India have already blunted the sharpness in the Lankan bowling attack by successfully tackling the two class spinners and take a 2-0 lead.
With the clinical performances in the series so far, they have emerged as clear favourites to wrap the series up in the 3rd match here on Tuesday and reach a step closer to the top spot in ODI rankings for the first time.
The only thing that Team India should be worried about is the sense of complacency among its players after the two consecutive victories. But Dhoni, being an astute captain, knows how to tackle the complacency and push the team harder for the remaining matches to achieve a whitewash in the series which may give India a chance to reach the hot seat at the top.
Anticipating that complacency may creep into the team, Dhoni has already sent out a message to his bowlers to pull up their shocks after the narrow win in the last ODI at Colombo on Saturday. Despite claiming three Lankan wickets early in the match, bowlers let the Lankan batsmen off the hook and allowed them to score around 250 runs.
In the last two matches, India sorely missed the service of a quality tweaker in the middle overs in the absence of ace spinner Harbhajan Singh, who generally keeps a tight leash around the opposition batsmen.
Though left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha did a decent job in the last two outings, Harbhajan’s are huge boots to fill. The part-timers, including all-rounder Yusuf Pathan, did a commendable job to keep the Lankan batsmen in control, Dhoni’s team clearly lacked a wicket-taking bowler in the middle-overs.
One thing that compensated the insipid slow-ball bowling is the consistent good showing of the Indian new-ball bowlers, especially Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan. Though Ishant was a tad expansive in the last game, he was able to pick up 4 wickets at vital times and duly bagged Man of the Match award. On the other hand, Zaheer carried his past form in this series too with his superlative bowling.
But the real difference between the two sides is batting. While the Indian batters are on a roll in this series save a little-bit of hiccups in the last ODI, the Lankans, barring the old war horse Sanath Jayasuriya, are looking absolutely out of touch in the series.
With the inexperienced pace bowling line-up at their disposal in the absence of Vaas, Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was heavily dependent on his famous spin duo. After Indian batsmen denied both Mendis and Murali to make any inroads into their batting order so far, the Lankan captain is finding it difficult to contain the opposition batsmen, especially Gambhir, Dhoni and Sehwag who seem to be in ominous touch in the series.
To add to his woes, middle-order batsmen, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, are also looking in good form. Both the batsmen played a mature partnership in the second ODI to pull the team out of the woods. It’s heartening to see Raina’s coming off age ever since he returned to the ODI-fold one year back.
But it is captain Dhoni, who has made a big difference in the batting line-up consisting of some flamboyant batsmen. His calm and composed approach to batting has given Team India much needed assurance in the final stages of the match, a quality otherwise missing earlier. In the first ODI at Dambulla he again proved himself a real finisher with an unbeaten 61.
With batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar due for a big innings in the series, Jayawardene has plenty of issues to address in the 3rd ODI that will be a do-or-die encounter for the Lankan lions.
India (Probable): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, L Balaji.
Sri Lanka (probable): Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Thilan Thushara, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis.