India need a miracle to qualify for tri-series finals
Hobart: Pushed to the very brink of elimination, a demoralised India face an ardous task of beating Sri Lanka with a bonus point to have any remote chance of qualifying to the final of the cricket tri-series when the two sides clash in Hobart on Tuesday.
Barely left standing on their feet after a dismal show in the tournament, India would not only need a win with a bonus point to remain alive but also hope that Australia would somehow prevail over Lanka in the last league match on Melbourne on March 2.
The odds are heavily staked against the beleaguered Indians but teams have won with bonus points and India would hope that they do it tomorrow or leave Australian shores with humiliation after a Test series whitewash.
A bonus point is earned when a team achieves a run-rate of 1.25 times than that of the opposition. A team`s run-rate will be calculated by the reference to the runs scored in an innings, divided by the numbers of overs faced.
In essence, India needs to chase down a target in 40 overs or while batting first, get the opposition out in the least number of overs as possible.
A bonus point though looks a wild dream for a team which is getting all-out in most of the matches and have suffered defeats by the margin of 101, 51 and 87 runs in last three successive matches.
No Indian has hit a hundred nor have they managed a century partnership in the tournament and the highest score from their miserable batsmen last night against Australia in Sydney was a mere 23. There have been only eight partnerships of 50 or more. They have lost four of their seven matches and managed a tie in one game.
It would be too much to expect from the hapless unit to suddenly discover the potency of scores and most bear the look of someone who would give anything to get out of Australia on the next available flight.
Sachin Tendulkar has just one innings, if India were to be knocked out tomorrow, to fulfill his unfinished mission of scoring his 100th international century.
There was poignancy in the manner he was run-out last night and it was one more instance where he`s dismissed in an unexpected manner.
In the previous game, he had shouldered arm to Nuwan Kulasekara but the ball had still touched his willow and fell on to his stumps.
Virender Sehwag is unlikely to be replaced but it`s also as certain that he would not score runs tomorrow. It`s a dangerous thing to predict for the world record holder in ODI cricket but the only time his bat touches the bat it`s in the form of an edge or an uppish drive.
Gautam Gambhir has sparkled all too briefly and his two innings of 90s in Adelaide look an act in distant memory. Steepling bouncers are still taking him by surprise and edges result in due course.
Virat Kohli looks in control before he surprises everyone with his sudden dismissals. Rohit Sharma is now out of favour and Suresh Raina, it seems, is now being played more for his outstanding fielding than ability with bat.
It leaves too much of a gaping hole for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the rest to fill even though Irfan Pathan has been a delight in whatever time he`s spending in the middle.
India`s woes don`t end with its batting. Zaheer Khan and Vinay Kumar are almost certain to be out for Tuesday’s clash.
There`s an outside chance Rahul Sharma might be played in place of Ravindra Jadeja who`s had a poor series with the ball -- only two wickets from seven matches, an average of 142.00 and an economy rate of 5.39 runs per over. With the bat too, he has only 101 runs at 16.83.
Sri Lanka are aware they can play safe and yet be in the finals. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene, for a change, can opt for defensive fields and yet smoke India out of the competition.
He himself is such a tower of strength as an opener and is remarkably astute with his understanding of situation and proactive captaincy.
It`s also good enough time for Kumar Sangakkara to hit straps. He`s been getting regular scores in 20s but rarely beyond. Tillakaratne Dilshan too has a lot many 40s but never a high score.
Sri Lanka have been excellently served by 22-year-old Dinesh Chandimal who`s the only batsman, besides David Hussey, to top the 300-run mark in the series. He has 306 runs to Hussey`s 338 but has an innings advantage over the Australian middle-order batsman.
The two all-rounders, Thisara Perera and Angelo Matthews are also excellent with both bat and ball.
Fast bowler Ferveez Maharoof and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath have made late entry into the competition but have only added meat to the Lankan attack.
Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara have been excellent with the new ball. Malinga has taken nine wickets at 33.66 average and an economy rate of 5.42. Kulasekara has shown the knack of picking up key wickets and has seven scalps at 34.85 average and an economy rate of 4.43.
Lanka, to top it, are an excellent fielding unit. They are a side who have taken to Australian conditions like a duck to water and it`s a completely contrast to Indians who have spent nearly three months and have yet to find their feet Down Under.
There are brief showers predicted for Tuesday but they are all in the morning. India wants nothing but sunshine to manage a miracle.