India look to inflict more pain on Lanka

India look to inflict more pain on Lanka

Dhonis men take on visitors in first T20 today

India look to inflict more pain on Lanka

India’s Virender Sehwag (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring a goal during a practice session on Tuesday at Nagpur. AFP

There was a touch of commonness to the Indian training session -- a round of football to begin with before moving on to fielding and net sessions. But that extra zip in their steps was hard to miss on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

Reaching the pinnacle of the ICC Test rankings has certainly instilled fresh doses of self-belief into them, but the real work for them starts now. India’s test starts from Wednesday when they face Sri Lanka here in the first Twenty20 international that will mark the beginning of a two T20s and five one-day matches series over three weeks.
The pitfall of being the number one side, irrespective of the format, in the world is that the Indian fans’ expectations will be sky high and they will settle for nothing less than a victory.

This hard-to-please and ever-demanding group will be hoping to see a commanding performance worthy of the numero uno side against the Lankans, in public eye a team waiting more Indian punishment after their below-par show in the Test series.

Now the Indians will have to respond to the call on the morrow with a flawless performance and it is not just to satiate the fans’ will. A strong outing in this picturesque venue will go a long way in further strengthening their hold on the Lankans.

For this the men in blue will have to adapt to the needs of T20 cricket straightaway, and the transition from Tests to the shortest format could be a tricky one. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s wards have the wherewithal to make the quick changes. 

India will also miss in their ranks Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, players who have made impact in the Test series at different times. Sri Lanka will view the absence of these senior players in Indian line-up with a lot of relief, a chance to put some pressure on the hosts.

So the youngsters, who are part of the ultra-abridged version, will perforce have to maintain the momentum set by the senior players. However, one particular player will be eager to start the series with a mighty performance. Gautam Gambhir giving a miss to the third Test in Mumbai due to personal reasons had evoked mixed response.

Gambhir has been going through a golden run during the last one year or so with the bat, and the Delhiite, who was recently adjudged as the BCCI Indian Cricketer of the Year, taking a break has raised fears of him snapping that run. So the left-hander will be eager to score substantially to allay those presentiments.

All look so rosy in the home side camp, but on the other hand the Sri Lankans will have to strive that extra yard to get out of the hell Indians have put them through in the last fortnight. Their batsmen had struggled against the experience and aggression of Indian bowlers, and the visitors’ bowlers looked a bunch of amateurs, even the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan and the mysterious Ajantha Mendis, against Indian batsmen, who scored at will against the Islanders in the Test series.

There is doubt over Muralitharan’s availability for the two T20s, and that will only add to Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s worries. However, the form of Tillakaratne Dilshan, one the best T20 players in the world, will be a soothing factor for him along with the presence of veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya.

The performance of this dynamic duo at the totem pole position will have a big role in determining Sri Lanka’s fortunes in the morrow’s game. However, you don’t need to think twice to determine the favourite, and the picturesque VCA stadium will be an ideal place for the Indians to begin their search for a new peak.

Teams (from): INDIA: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Kaarthick, Yusuf Pathan, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, S Sreesanth, Ashok Dinda, Sudeep Tyagi, Pragyan Ojha.

 SRI LANKA: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Kapugedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Dilhara Fernando, Kaushalya Weeraratne, Chanaka Welegedara.

Umpires: Amish Saheba and Shavir Tarapore; Third umpire: Sanjay Hazare; Match referee: Jeff Crowe.