Sri Lanka favourites in summit clash
Match FactsThursday, June 24, 2010
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
India may have had the better results during the spate of contests against Sri Lanka over the last couple of years but, in this Asia Cup, the hosts have looked significantly superior. They have a more settled batting line-up, greater potency in their bowling attack and impressive reserves who filled in admirably during the dress rehearsal when the bigger names were missing. India's performance lacked the assuredness of their opponents, and they begin Thursday's final with more glitches to rectify.
The foremost concern with India's batting is the middle order. Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli have not matched the consistency of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, while Ravindra Jadeja, an allrounder, has only kept his place with his tidy left-arm spin. His counterpart Angelo Mathews, on the other hand, has lived up to his role successfully. The worry over Virender Sehwag's absence was eased by a solid innings from his replacement Dinesh Karthik on Tuesday, but Sri Lanka's opening combination of Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan has inspired greater confidence.
The return of Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh will strengthen India's bowling but those changes will be driven more by necessity and limited choices. Against the best-available Indian batting line-up, Farveez Maharoof did more than enough to ensure that team selection for the final remained a less than straightforward issue for Sri Lanka. With Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Muttiah Muralitharan in good form, amid stability in the batting, India need a quick turnaround to unsettle Sri Lanka's conviction.
Form guide (most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WWWWL
Watch out for...
Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli: Both batsmen squandered opportunities during the dress rehearsal, making their position in the batting order vulnerable to change. Adaptability, however, is something the pair should be comfortable with. They are also invaluable for their agility in the field, but largely below-par results with the bat of late have contributed to India's fragility.
Sri Lanka's pace attack: The hosts have plenty of options to work with in this department. Kulasekara and Malinga have been impressive up front, with the latter ensuring the wickets have been accompanied by a decline in scoring. The nagging cutters from Maharoof in tandem with Rangana Herath's spin put the brakes on India on Tuesday. Mathews possesses a similar approach which, if complemented with Murali's variations, offers Sri Lanka an excellent combination in the middle overs.
Ravindra Jadeja: "Jadeja needs to contribute more with bat," Dhoni said. "When he came into the team, he was more of a batsman who could bowl. But now he has turned into more of a specialist bowler." For someone with a batting average of 33.78 and a bowling average of 44.08, that must sting.
India should play their first-choice attack of Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra, who will return after recovering from back spasms. A half-century in the previous game could earn Rohit Sharma a promotion.
India (possible) : 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Maharoof's five-for and hat-trick could prompt the selectors to choose him ahead of Chanaka Welegedera. Thilan Samaraweera has batted just once this series and it remains to be seen if Thilina Kandamby is picked in his place.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamby/ Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Farveez Maharoof/Chanaka Welegedera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
Stats and trivia
- India and Sri Lanka have played 15 tournament finals, with India winning six and Sri Lanka seven. Sri Lanka have won six of those finals since 2000, while India just one, in the Compaq Cup last year.
- India haven't won an Asia Cup in 15 years; Sri Lanka, if they win on Thursday, will take the title for the third straight time.
- The teams play their 19th ODI against each other since the start of 2009, and there is more in store. India tour Sri Lanka in July for three Tests and a triangular ODI tournament also involving New Zealand.
"It's a good situation to be in. We will be thrashing a few issues out with the selectors to see what the best eleven is going to be. We've got to take that match in isolation. We are not going to look too far behind us but just got to focus on picking the best squad for that one game."
"The lack of an allrounder is a big concern. If you want to play with five bowlers then one or two of them need to bat."
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.