India aim to seal the series

India aim to seal the series

Cricket: Fourth one-dayer: Spinners to play a crucial role on slow and low Eden Gardens pitch

India aim to seal the series

Sri Lanka's captain Kumar Sangakkara (L) and bowler Nuwan Kulasekara during a practice session. AP

It won’t be surprising either to see his rival number Kumar Sangakkara too opting to bowl first what with the dew factor expected to play a huge part during this time of the year. However, irrespective of the dew factor, the key to success lies in batting well under better conditions. India failed to do so in Nagpur – 301 was just par for the course on that pitch – and paid the price for it while Sri Lanka suffered a similar fate in Cuttack.

The win in the third game has given India a chance to seal the series here. But Yuvraj Singh’s absence through injury and the two-match ban-forced absence of MS Dhoni, would have enhanced Sri Lanka’s hopes of leveling the series again. The importance of the two batsmen can be gauged from the fact that this will be the first time since Dhoni’s debut in 2004 that India play an ODI without either of the two. The hurting visitors will definitely be looking to exploit this twin setbacks for India, though Sangakkara’s men themselves have been hit hard by a spate of injuries that has seen five of their first-choice players sent back home.

Warming up: India’s Sachin Tendulkar practices on Wednesday ahead of the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens. AFPThe history at Eden Gardens too should inspire Sri Lanka to remain optimistic. The last three completed matches here have all resulted in India’s defeat and Lanka will look back at their last completed match here with great fondness.

The islanders scripted one of their more memorable wins over India at this historic venue in the semifinals of the 1996 World Cup in which they triumphed eventually.
Sanath Jayasuriya, at 40, is the lone surviving member of that squad from Lanka while Sachin Tendulkar is the only player in Indian camp to have played in that match.

In all likelihood the two old war horses would resume their rivalry with Jayasuriya expected to make his way back into the side. Jayasuriya’s replacement in the last two matches, Chamara Kapugedera, did precious little, so there is a great chance of the veteran being included in the playing eleven since the left-hander provide bowling option also.  Jayasuriya opened the proceedings at Lanka’s optional net session on Wednesday, but it’s unlikely Sangakkara will split the successful pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga at the top of the order.  

The Indian top-order has been unshakable, but the middle-order now has a distinct inexperienced look to it with Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Kaarthick and Ravindra Jadeja to follow number three batsman Gautam Gambhir. Much of the batting onus thus will be on Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir.

However, bowling, for the first time in the series, came into its own in Cuttack. The spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Jadeja, particularly were impressive, sharing five wickets between them and sending down miserly spells.

Spinners again will have to play crucial roles here on a pitch that is expected to stay slow and low. Unlike the games held in the western pat of India, where one saw high-scoring pitches, the tracks in the eastern part during this time of the year generally tend to stay slow and low, helping spinners.

The renovation work at the stadium has seen two high-rise galleries being brought down and the resultant breeze may aid some swing as well. The under-renovation stadium, whose capacity has almost been reduced to half from its original 90,000, may not also have the same noisy, chaotic and intimidating atmosphere.

But there won’t be any less intensity in the middle or in the stands.

Teams (from): India: Virender Sehwag (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, 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 Taranga, 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:  Sanjay Hazare and Marais Erasmus (South Africa); Third umpire: Shavir Tarapore; Match Referee: Alan Hurst (Australia).