Sri Lanka v India, Asia Cup final, Dambulla June 23, 2010

India look to improve finals record

India seek to improve their appalling recent ODI record in non-bilateral series against a Sri Lankan team whose only chink seems to be a lack of batting depth

Something for the trivia buffs to start. When was the last time India won a multi-team ODI tournament without a headline performance from Sachin Tendulkar in the final? Answer: The Natwest Trophy in 2002, when Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh, barely out of their teenage years, announced themselves as the next big things in Indian batting.

On Thursday, against a Sri Lankan team whose only chink seems to be a lack of batting depth, but whose top five have helped themselves to plenty of runs over the past week, India will also be seeking to improve an appalling recent ODI record in non-bilateral series.

MS Dhoni played down India's performance in finals, saying there was no extra "big-match" pressure on his side. "We won the last time we played a final in Sri Lanka," he said. "Somehow we have not been able to win [on other occasions], maybe the performance isn't good, or whatever the reason, but I don't think there's too much of pressure on you just because it's a final."

After six barren years following that famous victory at Lord's, things appear to have perked up under the leadership of MS Dhoni, with the team winning the final CB series in Australia and then capturing the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka last year. However, those victories were all inspired by masterly innings from Tendulkar, who is missing from the squad, as are two other match-winning batsmen, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj. That only adds to the burden on India's bowling attack, which hasn't done anything this tournament to fill Sri Lanka's batting with dread.

Zaheer Khan has had expensive first spells before recovering, Praveen Kumar's bowling has been mostly amiable and questions still swirl about Ashish Nehra's fitness. The spinners have generally had a better time, with Harbhajan Singh having a good game against Pakistan and Ravindra Jadeja being his steady, economical self.

"I am quite happy with the bowling performance," MS Dhoni said after the loss to Sri Lanka on Tuesday. "We have bowled mostly in the afternoon session when there was not much help for the bowlers. They have done well in patches, but it will really feel good if you can win some games after scoring 230 or 240. You cannot always expect your batsman to score 280 or 300, it's good if it happens so, but our strength is batting."

The lack of a quality allrounder is also hampering the Indian side. Jadeja is ostensibly filling that slot, but hasn't inspired confidence with the bat during the Asia Cup, which means India are essentially playing five specialist bowlers. Dhoni backed Jadeja to perform, saying that he had the potential to be a consistent allrounder.

"Ravindra Jadeja has done well in the IPL and domestic games. Now he has got fair amount of chances in international level also and we are hoping that he clicks," Dhoni said. "He has done well in the bowling department, now we hope that he stands out with his batting performance because he is the kind of guy who can give you stability at No. 6 or 7. There are not many players that you can spot right now [as alternatives]."

Success for India, though, will likely be based on their batting might. Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni have lent steel to the side, but youngsters like Virat Kohli, who are likely to be squeezed out of the XI when Tendulkar & Co return, haven't grabbed the opportunities they've been provided in Sri Lanka.

Kaif and Yuvraj made themselves indispensable to India's 2003 World Cup plans with their audacious innings eight months before the marquee tournament in South Africa. If one of Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma can turn in a similar starring role against a well-oiled Sri Lankan unit, it will push them ahead in the tussle for a permanent middle-order slot. And it will improve India's abysmal record in tournament finals as well.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • satya on June 25, 2010, 5:25 GMT

    Ppl whoever questioning the abilities of Jadeja either have poor memory or dont know cricket. See his bowling averages in 2009 T20 world cup or any one-day internationals he played. He got an excellent stats in bowling dept many times better than bhajji. I understand he is not a good hitter and sometimes finds it difficult to rotate the strike. But how come Irfan is a replacement? can he bowl morethan 110 KMPH when he comes to 2nd spell? For the name sake he is a medium pacer. Even afridi bowls faster. Irfan is good at batting but there is no slot for him. Because the likes of Raina, RS, kohli, sehwag can easily complete his spell and bats better than him. Also Raina over RS? lets come to batting. RS is more skilled and has more class than Raina who couldnt hit anything above waist. In bowling and fielding both are equally good. Attitude wise RS has to improve a lot which Raina did a bit recently after given responsibilities of captaining a team in IPL and Indian team.

  • Madhav on June 24, 2010, 13:59 GMT

    I dont care if India loses in finals or not.But please stop playing against Sri Lanka.Its so boring.We have had enough.Dont kill cricket please.

  • Vivek on June 24, 2010, 12:49 GMT

    In the attached image, you have discussed Rohit Sharma whereas the image is of Raina, Zak, and Ojha...

  • Lalith on June 24, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    It is funny. Malinga is bowling from both ends at the same time. he is now bowling 46th over and just finished 45th over.

  • KARTHICK on June 24, 2010, 8:31 GMT

    1. Irfan Pathan is the only allrounder in India probable, for some reason Dhoni does not recognize him, also due to Irfan's blow hot - blow cold performances 2. Ravindra Jadeja is a fielder who can hold and bat and bowl a bit. Calling him allrounder is everyone's discretion 3. We're all SICK of Ind V SL, too much overdose. either noone wants to play with us, or, SL is too flexible for BCCI's schedule, or, something's wrong. there are more Ind v SL coming up as well (tri series with NZ)....

  • suman on June 24, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    Its strange that all the ppl here have some or the other suggestions to team india.Jadeja has consistently bowled at below 5 economy rate which even nehra or harbhajan are not able to emulate.He is 21 yrs of age lot of cricket left in him give him some time to come over his batting.Team india incl the team mangment has the best brains we have got let them do their job.Dont post mortem every loss like star plus,Aaj tak it dosnt help the cause of indian cricket it will channels are doing their job by always showing negative news coz thats wat ppl like to watch.the fault is with us, news chanels and politicians are not culprit we are since we are vulnerable since centuries, when things go wrong we point fingers at politicians an blah blah.....we will continue to be negligent i belive.

  • manikandan on June 24, 2010, 7:54 GMT

    R.jadeja is not better than Irfan.Why T2o worl cup winners like Uthappa,Irfan,Rp singh were not given fair chances? And always depending Sachins,Yuvrajs,Zaheer?

    Please Dont play with slow Arm Allrounders attack with pace allrounders.

  • viraj on June 24, 2010, 7:41 GMT

    @ deenu_points, I completely agree with u. Even one of pathan brothers is better than jadeja. We won against pakistan only because of his TIMELY dismissal!!! Even Ashwin is a better all-rounder ; why not try him? Also, dhoni should bat at no. 3 in ALL MATCHES because with him all the batsmen bat well. Raina should come in at 4.

  • Ishan on June 24, 2010, 7:35 GMT

    Ind vs SL yet again man come on

  • surya on June 24, 2010, 7:23 GMT

    R.Jadeja should be played only in 20-20s that to as a substitute fielder.

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