India seek to clinch first Asia Cup title in 15 years
Dambulla: India will aim to set right their woeful record in ODI finals and end a 15-year-old jinx when they take on familiar foes Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here on Thursday.
Their pride pricked once again by a dominant Sri Lanka last night, India will also seek to avenge yesterday`s defeat at the Rangiri International Stadium where they slumped to a comprehensive seven-wicket defeat.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni struggled to explain the humiliating loss but the fact remains that India were completely outclassed by the Lankans, who are gradually developing into a powerful one-day side.
That they have trounced India in three ODI finals since 2008, besides the victory in the Twenty20 World Cup, indicates that the inspired Lankans would be a hard bunch to be beat even if Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra, rested yesterday, return tomorrow.
Dhoni would also hope to end a 15-year title drought that followed India`s last Asia Cup triumph in Sharjah in 1995.
Yesterday`s defeat not only exposed India`s batting frailties but also raised questions about some selection issues.
With Sachin Tendulkar opting to spend time with his family, India should have had an opening batsman in the reserves. But they chose middle-order batsman Saurabh Tiwary, while Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli fight for a permanent slot.
It didn`t come as a surprise when the team management hurriedly flew in Dinesh Karthik as a replacement when regular opener Virender Sehwag suffered a hamstring injury.
Another startling gaffe by the team management was the inclusion of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha for the last match.
With Sehwag, who had claimed four wickets for six runs against Bangladesh, out of the tournament and Harbhajan Singh rested, Dhoni should have logically played R Ashwin as a replacement for an off-break bowler.
But he chose to play Ojha when India already had a left-arm tweaker in Ravindra Jadeja.
Evidently, off-break bowlers have held sway right through the tournament but India chose to ignore this fact and paid the price for their imprudence.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka have been prudent in their team selection. Every selection made by Aravinda de Silva and co-selectors has been made with an eye on the 2011 World Cup.
Dhoni conceded that India had come short in big events, but couldn`t put his finger on the actual problem afflicting the team`s performance.
Nevertheless, he was confident that India could turn things around in the match that matters the most.
"We are aware that our performance is not up to the mark when it comes to tournaments involving more than one team. It is really tough to single out one reason for the failures. But we are confident that we can do better this time," said Dhoni.
If India don`t get their act together tomorrow, they could once again be crushed by Kumar Sangakkara`s men who come into the final with their nose clearly ahead after an emphatic win last night.
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Muttiah Muralitharan, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Chanaka Welegedara.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Saurabh Tiwary.
Match starts 2.30 pm (IST).