India v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Brisbane February 20, 2012

Plenty to ponder for unsettled India

Match facts

February 21, Brisbane
Start time 1320 (0320 GMT)

Big Picture

It's been a topsy-turvy few days for the CB series. Halfway through the tournament, India were table-toppers but the two matches in Brisbane could completely change the standings. Not only were India comprehensively beaten by Australia on Sunday, they have also lost their captain, and easily their best batsman of the series, MS Dhoni, for Tuesday's game.

The most intensely debated topic this series has been India's rotation of their three experienced openers. With the middle order missing the assurance of Dhoni, India will be tempted to abandon the policy and pick all three. There are question marks over the fitness of two of them, though both are expected to pull through - Virender Sehwag sat out the previous two matches due to a back spasm, while Sachin Tendulkar went for a precautionary MRI scan after being hit on the helmet by a Brett Lee bouncer.

The Indian media has gone to town over Dhoni's remarks that playing all three of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir - who aren't the most athletic of fielders - could result in 20 more runs being conceded in the field, but that isn't likely to dissuade the team management from selecting all three.

With the four-man pace attack also not working for India on Sunday, they also need to rethink the bowling combination. R Ashwin has excelled in both games against Sri Lanka so far, and given how effective Xavier Doherty was on Sunday at the Gabba, India will have to find a way to accommodate Ashwin in the line-up.

In contrast to India's several conundrums, Sri Lanka seem more settled, despite currently being at the bottom of the table. They have been getting better in every game - getting close to a victory in their early matches before pulling off a tie against India and then a morale-boosting bonus-point win over Australia.

Form guide

India LTWWL (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka WTLLW

In the spotlight

In his second coming as captain, Mahela Jayawardene has impressed observers with his leadership and on-field strategies. Sri Lanka needed him to end his lean run as a batsman, something he did with the half-century against Australia after pushing himself up to the top of the order. In his 11 innings as opener, he averages 67.90 which is twice his career mean. Sri Lanka have made stuttering starts in recent matches - 20 or less for the first wicket in 12 of their past 16 ODIs. Jayawardene wants to correct that by taking over at the top.

Virat Kohli has established himself as the best of the next generation of Indian batsmen, moving ahead of the likes of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina. He had an outstanding 2011, scoring more runs than anyone else in ODIs, but hasn't hit those heights in this series. With Dhoni missing and much of the batting line-up struggling for form, he needs to make the runs befitting his new-found status.

Team news

India have several questions to ponder. Either Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina will probably have to make way for Parthiv Patel. The bowling combination will also have changes, with the four-quicks policy likely to be abandoned.

India: (probable) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag (capt), 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Rohit Sharma/Suresh Raina, 6 Parthiv Patel (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Irfan Pathan, 10 Vinay Kumar/Zaheer Khan, 11 Umesh Yadav

Sri Lanka have no reason to make too many changes. The only batsman with a question over his place is Lahiru Thirimanne and he didn't get to bat in the previous match. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara are Sri Lanka's first-choice fast bowlers. With Thisara Perera turning in a Man-of-the-Match performance in Sydney and Farveez Maharoof making a superb comeback, Sri Lanka could again go in with a pace-heavy attack.

Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath

Pitch and conditions

The Australian fast bowlers thrived at the Gabba, and the same surface will be used for Tuesday's game. There isn't good news on the weather front - thundershowers are predicted in the afternoon and evening.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have lost nine of their 11 ODIs at the Gabba. Their only win came against South Africa in 2006


    "MS Dhoni is a match winner by himself ... still, we are playing India, they have got some really big players and we can't be complacent."
    Mahela Jayawardene isn't focussing too much on the absence of Dhoni.

    Edited by Abhishek Purohit

    Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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