Gross Islet: Facing the risk of an early exit, India will not only have to produce a miracle against Sri Lanka in their last Super Eights match here on Tuesday but also hope for a favour from Australia if they aspire to enter the semifinals of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup.
After slumping to the 49-run loss against Australia in their first Group F Super Eight match, India’s semifinal hopes received a severe battering yesterday when Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men fell short by 14 runs against the West Indies.
Despite the two defeats, India are mathematically still in the fray for a semifinal place. But for that to happen, Dhoni’s men will first have to beat Sri Lanka tomorrow and then hope Australia drub the West Indies by a big margin, which will see three teams locked with same points in Group F.
In such a scenario, the net run-rate (NRR) will be brought into action to pick which one of these three teams – India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies – qualify for the semi-finals.
To make matter worse for India, they would have to win by a handsome margin against the islanders tomorrow to bolster their net run-rate, which is a dismal -1.578.
Despite losing to Australia by 81 runs yesterday, Sri Lanka have a NRR of -0.600 while the West Indies’ NRR is -1.057.
India could have avoided this mathematical dilemma had their batsmen executed better skills or been prudent while handling short balls.
Cramped for time and space, they have injudiciously played the pull shot, though not being physically and technically well equipped to challenge such hostile deliveries.
As the frazzled Indian stars may have realised by now, merely throwing the bat around at short balls, without getting inside the line or under the ball, doesn’t fetch runs.
It needs grit, gumption, skill and prudence to face such adversity, especially on a bouncy and fast track.
“When we step out of the sub-continent and play on bouncy tracks, we get into trouble. In the other forms of the game, we can let the ball go by. But you can’t afford to let the ball sail past you in the Twenty20 format as the pressure will increase,” said India skipper Dhoni, lamenting his batsmen’s inability to combat the short-pitched deliveries.
However, India can take heart from the fact that they will be playing the Lankans at the less-boucy Beausejour Cricket Ground here where they recorded both their victories in the first round.
To top it, though Sri Lanka have three quicks in Lasith Malinga, Chanaka Welagedara and Angelo Mathews, they certainly would not be as devastating as the Australian or the Caribbean pacers.
Most importantly, India will have to get over the two defeats and play positively on Monday to achieve their goal of comprehensively beating Sri Lanka and then hope the NRR could possibly provide them the leeway to enter the semifinals.
But considering the way his batting order has performed, Dhoni is not too optimistic of India making the last four stage of the tournament.
“Hoping to qualify from this situation (two defeats) would be asking for too much. We will go out and play positive cricket. If we can win, we will take it as a consolation,” Dhoni had said, reflecting the sodden mood of the camp.
As statistics reveal, only two batsmen – Suresh Raina (101) and Rohit Sharma (79 not out) have scored in the excess of 50 runs in the event, belying Dhoni’s belief that his batting line-up has the fire-power and depth to surpass targets of 160 to 170.
However, trouncing Sri Lanka is not going to be a lark in the park, as Kumar Sangakarra’s men would come all guns blazing to qualify for the semis, especially after slumping to the morale-shattering defeat againstAustralia last night.
The Lankans would be eyeing nothing less than a victory to avoid any mathematical equation and if they do so, the Islanders, in all probability, will face Engalnd in the first semifinal on May 13.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, R Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Thissara Perera, Thilan Thushara, Chanaka Welegedara.
Match starts at 10.30 pm (IST).