India consider playing extra batsman
India are considering playing an extra batsman in Saturday's final following a slew of collapses in the tri-series. MS Dhoni said at the pre-match press conference that they were toying with the idea of picking a specialist batsman in place of the struggling Ravindra Jadeja.
"If we feel the wicket is dry and not hard then Jadeja will get a spot," Dhoni said, "but if we feel it won't help the spinners and we feel like playing an extra batsman then Jadeja will have to miss."
Allrounder Jadeja has been the preferred option at No. 7 for the past couple of months, but he has not contributed much with the bat on the difficult Dambulla tracks either in the Asia Cup or the current tri-series. The absence of Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, both of whom are capable batsmen, has weakened India's ability to resist down the order when the specialists fail.
"In this tournament the lower order looks completely different because you don't have Harbhajan Singh who bats at No.8 and you don't have Zaheer Khan who bats at nine," Dhoni said. "They are two batsmen who can score a few runs. When it comes to the four batsmen who we have right now… they have not been able to score, but it won't be justified to put the blame on them because they are in the side for their bowling and they are doing that job."
Virender Sehwag has been the architect of both of India's victories in this tournament, scoring nearly as much as the rest of the team. "I don't want to put pressure on Sehwag since he is a free-flowing cricketer," Dhoni said. "He is a natural aggressive cricketer. So he should back himself and bat the way he bats."
India reached the final after their pumped-up quick bowlers demolished New Zealand's batting on Wednesday. "Last game there was lot of intensity and we are hoping that in tomorrow's match also there is enough intensity," Dhoni said. "First 15 overs and last 10-12 overs and Powerplay is important. In the middle if the intensity drops down a bit it is okay but at the start of the game it sets up the tone for the whole match."
Right through the tournament, Dhoni has stressed on the need to give the opposition bowlers respect in the initial stages of the innings. "I think this has been a series of ups and down not only for our batsman but for all the three teams that have participated. The new ball spell has been important. It will be crucial not too lose too many wickets early. How you do that is not important, whether it looks good or doesn't."
On Saturday, Dhoni will be looking to win his fifth successive one-day series in Sri Lanka as captain. Calling correctly at the toss helps. "We have won many tosses; in the series before the Asia Cup when we had come to Sri Lanka, at the Premadasa, we won four tosses out of five," he said. "Before it we had played the initial part of a series in Dambulla, where again we won several tosses. In this tournament we have seen that the toss is not the factor like in the earlier series."
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo