Experience gives Sri Lanka the edge
There is nothing much to separate India and Sri Lanka as they prepare to meet in their first league encounter in the CB series at the Gabba on Tuesday. Sri Lanka are the World Cup runners-up while India are the world Twenty20 champions. Sri Lanka lost their last ODI series 3-2 to England at home while India beat Pakistan by the same margin. One factor tilting the balance in Sri Lanka's favour is its experienced stars, compared to the mostly youthful Indian team. In the end, though, consistency will determine which team makes it to the finals.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, says no team is a favourite yet because each will have to play consistent cricket through the month to make the best-of-the-three finals in early March. "It's all on form, how you adapt to the conditions. Australia can be favourites but the same applies to them. It's going to be a tough, interesting series," Jayawardene said a day before his team begins the second leg of their Australian tour, losing the Test series 2-0 in the first part late last year.
Jayawardene said he had already forgotten the loss and blamed it mainly on the inability of his batsmen and fast bowlers to work out their responsibilities. It's a fresh beginning now, he insists.
"It's all about preparation", Jayawardene said, having played two practice games. They won the first game against a Prime Minister's XI by four wickets in Canberra and lost the second to Tasmania in Hobart by seven wickets.
Despite the mixed results, the important point is Sri Lanka had the time to get their foot in and are now more settled than most of the Indians, who had to prepare with a few indoor warm-ups. Yet the Sri Lankans are wary of India's youth brigade, whom they observed during the ICC World Twenty20.
Jayawardene said they had played against most of the batsmen, except Manoj Tiwary, "so we have a fairly good idea. Even if it's a young side they have experience too and have played some good cricket recently". He was also impressed by the bowlers, especially Ishant Sharma, whom he thought to be an "interesting prospect". But he felt Zaheer Khan's experience would have suited the prevailing conditions in Australia. Having said that, he gave the Indian bowlers credit for having "put a lot of pressure on the Australians during the Test series".
As for his own line-up for tomorrow's game, Jayawardene didn't give any hints. "It's too early to say if we would go with a 6-5 or 7-4 combination," he said. But he confirmed that Sanath Jayasuriya, who had his chin stitched up after being hit in the Tasmania tour game, would play.
India, who didn't have any practice after Sunday evening's rain-interrupted encounter against Australia, are most likely to stick to the same combination unless Yuvraj Singh is completely confident about taking field. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, said Yuvraj was fit but was non-committal about his chances of actually making the final line-up.
India (likely) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 MS Dhoni 7 Robin Uthappa, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Sreesanth, 11 Ishant Sharma
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2, Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Tillakaratne Dilshan , 6 Chamara Silva, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Chaminda Vaas, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo