Silverware within young captains' grasp
Match factsThursday, July 11
Start time 0930 (1330 GMT)
Much of the cricketing world's attention might be drawn towards the blue-riband Test series which kicked off in England on Wednesday, but a soon-to-be-forgotten tri-series in the Caribbean isn't done with yet. India and Sri Lanka have played each other so often in recent years that even jokes about how often they play each other have become stale. Still, when the two sides face off for the 42nd ODI in five years, there's a series trophy on the line. Also, firing up the two teams will be the chance for two young captains to get their hands on some silverware.
If it wasn't enough that India's one-day side was shorn of many of its most experienced players in recent months, they also lost the services of MS Dhoni midway through the tournament. That meant that two years on from their World Cup triumph, India's ODI side had only two players that featured in that famous Mumbai final. Fast on the heels of that Dhoni injury, India were humiliated by Sri Lanka by 161 runs, and were staring at an early exit.
Instead, stand-in captain Virat Kohli added to his ever-expanding tally of ODI centuries to resuscitate the campaign, before Bhuvneshwar Kumar added to his burgeoning reputation as a new-ball expert by ripping through Sri Lanka's batting. The two victories meant India ended up top of the table, and will go into the final with more of the swagger that carried them to the Champions Trophy title.
Sri Lanka have more experience in their line-up, particularly in the batting, but have lost some high-profile crunch ODIs to India in recent years. Their bowling attack isn't as seasoned though, and plenty will depend on how Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath fare.
Sri Lanka will play their fourth day of cricket in five when they play the final, and thankfully the weather forecast is better than it has been over the past week. There is still a chance of some light showers but it is likely that Thursday will prove the last of India-Sri Lanka cricket for the year.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka LWWLL
In the spotlightOn Thursday, Mahela Jayawardene will become only the third cricketer to play 400 ODIs, behind legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. He has a penchant for turning up on the big occasion, as India well know, and will be desperate to mark the landmark game with a performance that will lift Sri Lanka to only their third ODI series win in previous 12 campaigns.
After a long and not always convincing streak in the middle order, Rohit Sharma has reinvented himself as an ODI opener. Usually a flamboyant, attacking player, he has had to shelve his more expansive strokes in the challenging conditions of the Caribbean. His strike-rate is a pedestrian 60.45 this series, but he has already played three important innings in four matches.
Fast bowler Suranga Lakmal started the long journey from Sri Lanka to the Caribbean yesterday after Nuwan Kulasekara was ruled out of the tournament with a hand injury, but whether that will only end up in boosting his frequent flier miles or the Sri Lankan pace attack as well is still to be seen. While he has to deal with the jet lag, he at least has the experience of playing in the Caribbean as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when he turned out for Sri Lanka A, taking eight wickets in three matches.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Mahela Jayawardene, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Dilhara Lokuhettige/Suranga Lakmal, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Shaminda Eranga
Unless MS Dhoni is deemed fit for the final, India aren't likely to tinker with their combination much. At Wednesday's press conference, Kohli said a decision on Dhoni had not yet been taken.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 M Vijay, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
Stats and trivia
- India and Sri Lanka have won 10 finals each at neutral venues, joint second highest after Pakistan's 20 wins. India's win-loss record at neutral venues in finals: 10-16, Sri Lanka's is: 10-10
- Kohli, who otherwise averages 54.70 against Sri Lanka in ODIs (five 100s, eight 50s), averages only 26 in tournament finals against them, with no fifty-plus scores
- It's been 13 ODIs, stretching back to last November, since Jeevan Mendis either scored 30 runs or took more than one wicket
- In the first ten overs of ODIs this year, no one has more wickets than Bhuvneshwar, who has 13
Quotes"I told the team before the last game we played against Sri Lanka that 'we are flying home on the 12th (of July) no matter whether we play in the final or not; it's better we play in the finals than watching two other teams in the final'."
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo