Sloppy India aim to arrest slide
Saturday, December 12
Start time 17.30 (12:00 GMT)
The ICC World Twenty20 win, and the subsequent celebrations that riled Andrew Symonds so, seems like it belonged to another age. Though it set in motion the events that led to the creation of the IPL, India's form in the international arena has been dire. Wednesday's thrashing at Nagpur was their fourth loss in succession, and you have to go back nearly a year to their last victory against a major side. The Pathan brothers, Irfan and Yusuf, denied Sri Lanka then, and it will need similar strength of will from the middle and lower order to ensure that the team's alarming slide in the game's most abbreviated format is arrested.
Sri Lanka snapped a four-game losing streak of their own in the opening game, and would have been delighted with the manner in which they coped despite another Sehwag-Gambhir blitz at the top of the order. Once again, it was an old man, Sanath Jayasuriya, who showed the young 'uns how it's done with a miserly spell that choked all life out of India's charge for victory. Once again, Lasith Malinga and friends will focus on a callow middle order that was embarrassed at the World Twenty20 in England last June. India have shuffled the pack often enough, without finding any real answers.
As worrying was the fielding, or lack of it. We can only speculate as to what Mike Young made of it, with catches spilled, run-out opportunities squandered and a generally lackadaisical approach. Sri Lanka were much sharper in the field, and that made the difference in a game where more than 400 runs were scored.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
India - LLLLW
Sri Lanka - WLLLL
Watch out for...Tillakaratne Dilshan: He contributed significantly in Nagpur, without being as destructive as he can be. On a bouncier pitch, he could well showcase the electrifying shot-making ability that thrilled those at The Oval during the World Twenty20 semi-final. His offspin could also have a part to play.
Yuvraj Singh: He will celebrate his birthday in front of his home crowd. With rumours rife that he may not lead the Kings XI Punjab side in the next IPL season, it's the perfectly chance for one of the game's biggest hitters to illustrate just why he's so feared by the opposition, and so loved by the fans.
Team newsSreesanth missed the Nagpur with a stomach bug and has not recovered. He was admitted to a city hospital last night and is under the doctors' observation following multiple ailments. Rohit Sharma, who hurt his shoulder while diving in the last match, has also been ruled out. Rohit took part in the practice session at the PCA stadium but MS Dhoni said the team did not want to take a chance since he was not "match fit". Dinesh Karthik, a handy batsman to have in this format, should replace him. The management will decide on the final XI on the morning of the game. There is an outside shot that R Ashwin could replace Yusuf Pathan, though Pathan's swing-or-bust style may be persisted with for the moment.
India: (possible) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Pragyan Ojha, 9 Ashok Dinda, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
"I am tempted to play the same eleven which did a brilliant job in the last game," was Kumar Sangakkara's reply when asked about Sri Lanka's composition. There could, however, be a return to the fold for Ajantha Mendis, whose stock has plummeted since his heroics against India a little over a year ago.
Sri Lanka: (possible) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dilhara Fernando.
Pitch and conditionsThe dew could have a major role to play with a cold wave sweeping across northern India. Despite predictions of good bounce and carry, it looks like a bat-first-and-win match. If the skies are clear, the dew will be a factor by the time the first innings is over. Bowlers will find the ball hard to grip and batsmen could find the ball skidding through after pitching.
Quotes"Hopefully before the next World Cup we would get it right. We will have the third edition of the IPL before that which I think will help. IPL will give us the right preparation."
India's inconsistency in Twenty20 is an area of concern for MS Dhoni.
"We always have to come up with new ways to improve. Momentum is good as it gives us the confidence, self belief. It gives us the belief that we can repeat all the good things."
Kumar Sangakkara believes staying fresh in this format is crucial to success.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo