Confident India ready to topple Sri Lanka

Confident India ready to topple Sri Lanka

Cricket Champions Trophy

Confident India ready to topple Sri Lanka

A dominant India will be looking to extend their supremacy over a rebuilding Sri Lanka in their second Champions Trophy group encounter here on Thursday where a win will help them take a huge step towards sealing a semifinal spot.

Despite their title defence being rocked by a much publicised coach-captain rift, the Indians looked extremely professional in their opening match against arch-rivals Pakistan where they ticked pretty much all the boxes in a rousing 124-run win. All the four top-order batsmen made half-centuries while the bowlers were on top of their game, showing they are hungry to defend the title they won in outstanding fashion in 2013.  

The Indians will now be wanting to dish out another such professional performance at the Oval against a Sri Lankan side against whom they hold a stupendous record over the last four years. In the last 20 ODIs, the Indians have posted 15 victories with the islanders managing to win just four. Be it batting or bowling, the Indians have just proved far too superior and the gulf in class looks even wider now.
In the middle of a major transition following the retirements of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Lankans are in a situation similar to Pakistan’s. The newer bunch are struggling to find their feet ininternational cricket with just sporadic instances of individual brilliance but failing to click as a unit.

For a moment in their chase against South Africa in the opening game, they looked like springing a surprise but nerves and inexperience got the better of them as they crashed to a 96-run defeat.

However, as a welcome boost, they have their regular skipper Angelo Mathews returning from injury and much of their hopes will hinge on his performance. The 30-year-old, who has been carrying the Lankan load almost single-handedly, will be hoping others like Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne step it up against an Indian side that looks a cut above on all counts.

Having said that, one thing that could weigh India down is complacency but this team, under Virat Kohli’s leadership, has shown a ruthless edge. Even at the pre-match press conference, Kohli ruled out talks of relaxation, saying the entire squad is well aware of the dangers Sri Lankans pose. The Lankans have always tended to punch above their weight in ICC events and know a surprise result could put them too in the semifinal hunt.

The Indians mostly will be fielding the same XI that played against Pakistan but ace off-spinner R Ashwin, who had to warm the benches on Sunday, had a long bowl on Wednesday. Kohli might be tempted to play Ashwin and use Hardik Pandya as the third seamer, who did well against Pakistan, sending down eight overs and claiming two wickets. This would mean one among Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav or Jasprit Bumrah will have to be dropped.

Indians will also be praying for dry weather as the Met has Office predicted a few heavy showers in the afternoon although much of the day is expected to be sunny. The pitch, meanwhile, wore a green look on Wednesday but the grass mostly will be shaved off come match day. Even if the curator retains the grass, the Indians have the pacers to exploit it to the hilt.

The Men In Blue start firm favourites yet again and they will be itching to strengthen their knock-out chances instead of leaving it hanging on the South Africa game.