India seek first points in battle of WC finalists

Cricket Triangular series: Sri Lanka will be no pushovers

The last time India and Sri Lanka faced each other on a cricket field, the World Cup was at stake. But nearly 10 months down the line, both teams have transformed into grubby units.

Two heavy defeats away from home for India against England and Australia have put question marks over the careers of some of the true legends of the game. Since the World Cup, Sri Lanka have had to change the captain twice, sacked a coach and the bankrupt national cricket board is yet to make payments to its cricketers.

Given that context, when these two teams face each other at the WACA ground here on Wednesday, there will be a lot more at stake than mere victory. Still reeling from their disastrous outings in the Test series and a heavy defeat in the first game against Australia, it will be a chance for India to gain some much-needed momentum, and a win can boost the confidence of the entire team.

Sri Lanka are yet to win a series after the World Cup, losing both Test and ODI series to Australia and South Africa. Kumar Sangakkara left the hot seat after the World Cup for Tillakaratne Dilshan, but modest campaigns in two consecutive series have forced him to put in his papers after the tour of South Africa.

Though he has expressed reluctance to take up the captaincy, the Lankan selectors have somehow found a way to persuade Mahela Jayawardene to step in, and the classy batsman has a massive task at hand to motivate a side lacking in confidence and money.

All-rounder Angelo Mathews summed up the situation. “We are paying for the love of the game. Eventually, we will get paid. The cricket board has been trying to sort out the situation. Hopefully, they will come up with a good solution in the near future. Right now, we are concentrating on our cricket,” said Mathews. SLC has promised the players that it will clear all dues by February 29.

Notwithstanding the withdrawal of sponsorship by Sahara, money has not been an issue with Indian cricket but recent results show in emphatic terms that financial strength doesn’t necessarily ensure success on the field. India will have to produce some really forceful efforts to turn things around, and taking the Lankans lightly will bring some forgettable consequences.

Mathews warned the Indians that the Islanders wouldn’t go away without a fight. “They haven’t played really well in the Test series against Australia. That’s a plus point for us, and that’s something that we can take to this game. Yes, they are a different team when it comes to one-dayers. As we all know, they are the current world champions, and they can come really hard at us. But we are up for it, and ready to go,” Mathews said.

The Indians will have to exert more care this time when they finalise their playing eleven. In Melbourne, their strategy of fielding three spinners came unstuck big time against a set of confident Australian batsmen, and they faltered while chasing a formidable total under lights.

It’s quite certain that Virender Sehwag will walk into the side, most likely at the expense of Gautam Gambhir as part of the rotation policy for seniors. Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, rested after the Test series, too will appear in coloured clothes for the first time
this year, and he will replace either offie R Ashwin or leg-spinner Rahul Sharma.

There’s a strong case for including all-rounder Irfan Pathan in the eleven, but the Baroda man will have to wait for some more time as Ravindra Jadeja appears the front-runner at this point.

The stage is set for an intriguing clash between two strugglers, and the outcome will give the winner a huge psychological edge.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan, R Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Parthiv Patel.

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Chanaka Welegedara, Dhammika Prasad, Farveez Maharoof, Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirumanne, Thilan Samaraweera.

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