We just can't focus on Mahela or Sangakkara: Dhoni

We just can't focus on Mahela or Sangakkara: Dhoni

We just can't focus on Mahela or Sangakkara: Dhoni

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni rated Sri Lanka as "a dangerous team" ahead of their ICC Champions Trophy semifinal here tomorrow, saying they were not just focussing on "a Mahela Jayawardene or a Kumar Sangakkara".

Tomorrow's semifinal will be the fifth meeting between India and Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom. Except for the shock defeat in the 1979 World Cup, India have easily won the remaining four. But Dhoni is taking nothing for granted.

"Sri Lanka are a dangerous squad. We just can't focus on a Mahela (Jayawardene) or a (Kumar) Sangakkara. We have to think of the entire team," Dhoni told reporters after a training session today.

Dhoni said there was no pressure on the Indian team to win the championship.
"It's the Indian media that creates all this hype (after the recent BCCI controversies back home) and then asks me questions. As far as we are concerned, we have to play good cricket, we are working hard and just proving ourselves."

The Indian captain has been quite selective in dealing with the press during the Champions Trophy.

Except mandatory ICC briefings, the Indian Cricket Board's (BCCI) media policies have made Dhoni hard to get.

Rain could play spoilsport during the second semifinal at the Sophia Cardens here and if the match is washed out, India will go through to the final in Birmingham on June 23 for having topped their group.

Equal on points, but due to an inferior run-rate, the Lankans finished at the second spot behind England in group A.

India flexed their batting muscle, easily chasing down a 334-run target with five wickets in hand and six balls to spare.

Kohli and Dinesh Karthik scored hundreds, virtually toying with a mature Lankan attack, spearheaded by Kulasekara and current skipper Angelo Mathews.

India's batting domination has been eloquently clear in this competition. They have scored over 300 runs thrice in five matches, twice batting first.

Against the West Indies in a group B fixture, India easily chased down a 234-run target with eight wickets in hand and in a rain-hit game at Edgbaston, dismissed an off-colour Pakistan by an identical margin (D/L method).

Sri Lanka, by contrast, have got better with every game. After losing a low-scoring thriller against New Zealand at Cardiff by a wicket, Lanka bounced back with a commanding seven-wicket victory against England at The Oval.

The Lankans did have some anxious moments against the Aussies but the 20-run win would have given the islanders a big shot in the arm ahead of the semis.

India's batting revolves around a clutch of young men like Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli and Karthik, who have taken the world by storm with their euphoric stroke-making and natural belligerence.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, continue to profit from salty old pros, who still swear by the old charm of silken touch and classy stroke-making.

Sangakkara proved that against England with an unbeaten 134 that had grace written all over it. And Mahela Jayawardene showed why he is still an artist with a compelling flow, scoring an exquisite 84 not out against a desperate Australia at The Oval.

Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan are central to Sri Lanka's batting and with several young and explosive youngsters like Lahiru Thirimanne, Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal packing the middle order, the match against India should be a contest between quality batsmen.

A fresh new track has been laid by the Glamorgan ground staff at Sophia Gardens for the semifinal. Chief curator Keith Exton says 280 should be a par score but 300 will be very safe.

With overcast conditions expected on Thursday, the seamers should get early advantage but batsmen who have been patient and respected the conditions have stood to gain in this Champions Trophy.

India and Sri Lanka clashed in the Champions Trophy final in 2002 in Colombo, not once but twice. On successive days, rain played spoilsport and for the first time in the history of a major ICC tournament, the title had to be shared.

But come Thursday, neither history nor the result of a warm-up game will have any consequence. As Jayawardene said on Tuesday: "Warm-up games or whatever, it doesn't count right now. It's a big tournament. It's the semifinal...I'll be desperate for every game to win, (as) simple as that."

Hot and happening India are equally desperate and will match the Lankans, eyeball to eyeball for sure. The battle lines at Cardiff are drawn.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav.

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Dinesh Chandimal, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Match starts at 3 pm (IST).