Dambulla: India would look to avenge the league stage humiliation and clinch their second successive ODI trophy on Sri Lankan soil when they take on the hosts in what promises to be a high-voltage summit clash of the cricket tri-series here on Saturday.
Both the teams find themselves face to face in a final clash for the second time in just over a month after Kumar Sangakkara’s men finished on the losing side in the Asia Cup finals in June.
The ongoing tri-series, however, has been a lot more dramatic then the Asia Cup both on and off the field. The third team in fray, New Zealand, is out of the equation after India handed it a 105-run thrashing in the last league match of the series.
Fitting the drama that has unfolded in the past two weeks, including the now infamous no ball that Suraj Randiv bowled to deny Virender Sehwag a hundred, India and Sri Lanka have made the finals and it is hard to pick a winner in conditions where the toss of the coin has been of decisive significance.
The 105-run triumph over New Zealand may make it seem that India are in destructive form but the fact remains that had it not been Sehwag’s individual brilliance, the Indians could well have found it hard to put it past the depleted but spirited Kiwis.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has admitted that barring Sehwag all the batsmen are struggling on the tricky pitches here and mastering the conditions would be the biggest challenge for both the teams in the match which might also have some tense moments given the build-up so far.
Randiv’s deliberate no ball incident has added some zing to the rivalry between the two sides, whose way-too-often face offs were becoming dull.
Words have been exchanged in the pre and post-match press conferences but in the end, it will boil down to the cricket played on the pitch and that’s where the Lankans came out trumps in the league encounter.
Thisara Perera decimated the Indian batting with a five-for and left Dhoni’s men to deal with the humiliation of their worst-ever defeat in terms of number of balls left.
To their credit, the Indians bounced back well in the do-or-die match against the Kiwis but that could not hide their batting frailties, most significantly the lack of application by the youngsters.
In the absence of senior batsmen such as Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, it has been left to the Virat Kohlis and Suresh Rainas to deliver for the team but they have let Dhoni down so far.
Sehwag’s individual brilliance cannot be counted upon to bail India out in every situation and it is important that the rest of the batsmen, including the attacking Yuvraj Singh find their feet.
But that would not be an easy task against the disciplined Lankan bowling which has discovered a deadly weapon in Perera.
Add to this the ever-reliable Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews and the Indian batsmen may once again find the going tough.
Unlike the Indians, the Lankan batting line-up has a settled look with veterans Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara and the explosive Tillakaratne Dilshan in reasonably good form.
It remains to be seen how the Indian pace troika of Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma contain the islanders this time after being given just 103 runs to defend in the demoralising league-stage defeat.
The Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Saurabh Tiwary, Munaf Patel.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Mahela Jayawardene (vc), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga.
Match starts 2.30 pm (IST).