India's batting under scrutiny again
Match factsWednesday, August 20, 2008
Start time 10am (local time) 0430 (GMT)
Big PictureSince the Asia Cup final, India's acclaimed batsmen have had to endure a dreadful ego hammering. There seems no quick solution in sight and time is certainly not at India's disposal with just a day's gap between the first two games. Traditionally sound players of spin, the Test and ODI specialists are still groping for answers when Ajantha Mendis comes on to bowl, and an eight-wicket drubbing at the same venue on Monday only reinforced his threat after the two defeats in the Tests.
The woeful situation is compounded by Virender Sehwag's departure after twisting his ankle at practice. His double-century was the key to India's victory in Galle and the two captains were only stating the obvious yesterday by stating his absence would be a big blow. That puts additional pressure on Gautam Gambhir as the man in form at the top, and it's anybody's guess as to who his opening partner will be. No replacement has been sought for Sehwag and questions will be raised over the omission of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have no such issues and will go in as firm favourites. The decision to play five specialist bowlers worked for them and not one bowler looked like a weak link.
Form guide (last 5 ODIs)Sri Lanka WWLWW
Watch out forGautam Gambhir: His second-ball duck notwithstanding, Gambhir is India's form batsman after Sehwag - his 310 runs was the second-highest aggregate in the Tests among batsmen of both teams. His ploy of walking down the pitch before a delivery may have an element of risk, but it only speaks of his confidence and intention of putting the bowler off his rhythm. Dhoni spoke about the importance of getting good starts, so it would fall upon Gambhir to bat responsibly without getting bogged down. With the limited resources available, Gambhir is probably India's best bet at the moment.
Munaf Patel v Sri Lanka's top order: The only saving grace for India on Monday was Munaf's ability to keep Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara in check. He repeatedly got the ball to either cut back in or shape away from the off stump. In a match dominated by spinners, Munaf did the best he could in the conditions on offer, picking up the only wickets to fall in the chase.
Team newsIndia would be forced to re-assess their combination after the drubbing on Monday, especially at the top of the order with Sehwag's departure. Experimenting with Virat Kohli as an opener didn't work so it's likely he will swap places with Irfan Pathan who has been successful in the past as a pinch-hitter. With Rohit Sharma struggling for runs, Mahendra Singh Dhoni might promote himself to No. 5.
India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Irfan Pathan, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Virat Kohli, 8 Pragyan Ojha, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.
After the first ODI Mahela Jayawardene said Sri Lanka would retain the winning combination.
Sri Lanka (from) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
Pitch & conditionsThe conditions are expected to be similar to the first one-dayer, so batting could get difficult once the spinners operate.
Stats & Trivia
Quotes"They will definitely come back strongly. They have a very good side and a lot of talented individual players who can change the match for them."
Mahela Jayawardene isn't getting too carried away after coasting home by eight wickets and expects a backlash from the Indians.
"The only option right now is to play more and more of him and that's the only way of getting better. You can see a thousand videos but it doesn't matter until you go out there and play him off the track from 20 yards."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni says it's just not possible to be an overnight success against Ajantha Mendis.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at Cricinfo