Sehwag seeks inspiration

Sehwag seeks inspiration

Yuvraj may return but focus will be on respective bowling units

Sehwag seeks inspiration

Eyes on the ball: Stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag in experimental mode during Sunday’s practice session at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack. AP

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s two-match ban for failing to maintain the over-rate in Nagpur may have hogged much of the attention in the last 48 hours, but it has hardly succeeded in masking India’s inadequacies – or for that matter Sri Lanka’s – on the fielding front.

Catches went abegging and balls sneaked through fielders at crucial stages as India missed a chance to take a handsome 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Instead, they now come here hoping to stop the resurgent Lankans in their tracks.

While the two high-scoring matches at Rajkot and Nagpur have provided nail-biting finishes, one can’t help but feel sorry for the game’s poorer cousins, the bowlers. As if docile pitches which have rendered them toothless aren’t bad enough, fielding lapses from both sides haven’t helped their cause either.

With the bowlers’ abilities compromised to a great extent and the fielders putting up an abysmal show, it has almost been a direct contest between batsmen from the two sides.
And it’s for this reason that India have more reasons to hurt than the Lankans. Dhoni, the highest run-getter in one-dayers this year, has been their main stay in the middle, providing both solidity and flair.

It will be unfair to expect Dinesh Kaarthick, his replacement, to plug the gap created by Dhoni’s forced ouster, but the Tamil Nadu youngster would do well to concentrate on his job rather than thinking of filling the big shoes of the Jharkhandi.

The fact that there is still some uncertainty over Yuvraj Singh’s availability makes India’s task that much tougher. The left-hander, who missed the first two one-dayers, did take part in India’s practice session and batted at length to send some encouraging signals, but stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag maintained that a call on the Punjab batsman would be taken only on Monday.

If Yuvraj indeed makes it to the 11, the team management will have to take the tough decision of leaving out either Virat Kohli, who struck a measured half-century in the second match, or Ravindra Jadeja.

The failure to get early breakthroughs by the pacemen has been another problem area for the hosts. Tillakaratne Dilshan and his newest partner, Upul Tharanga, have had one near-double hundred and one century partnership at the top, setting a fine base for the batsmen to follow and leaving the Indian bowlers with a lot of catching up to do.

To their credit, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have been quite impressive at the death. The experienced left-arm duo pulled off victory from the jaws of defeat in Rajkot with their miserly spells and nearly did an encore in Nagpur, exposing the Lankan batsmen’s inability to handle pressure.

India will be hoping to exploit this chink in the Sri Lankan armoury, made more suspectible by the loss of the hugely-impressive Angelo Mathews after the all-rounder injured his quadriceps while guiding his team to victory in Nagpur.

With Mathews’ exit, Lanka have not only have lost a useful bat in the lower middle-order, but also a quality paceman and a fine fielder.

It will be interesting to see if the visitors include his replacement, Thissara Perera, or recall Nuwan Kulasekara, one of four who missed the Nagpur game.

Debutant off-spinner Suraj Randiv did a fine job but paceman Suranga Lakmal had a forgettable debut.

Lanka would love to have Lasitha Malinga back, but the slinger suffering from a mild respiratory infection on the eve of the match has cast a doubt over his availability. One is not sure if Malinga will recover in time, but what is certain is that there is going be another breathtaking batting spectacle.    

Teams (from):
India: Virender Sehwag (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Kaarthick, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Sudeep Tyagi.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby, Thissara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Chanaka Welegedara, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Suranga Lakmal, Suraj Randiv.
Umpires:  Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Sanjay Hazare. Third umpire: Shahvir Tarapore. Match referee: Alan Hurst (Australia).

Hours of play: 1430-1800 hours and 1845-end of play.