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The Preview by Sidharth Monga
April 5, 2014
Match factsSunday, April 6, 2014
Manjrekar: SL have been lacking X-factor in global finals
Big PictureRomesh Kaluwitharana caught at third man. Sanath Jayasuriya caught at third man too. Asanka Gurusinha is out soon. Eden Gardens has erupted. Aravinda de Silva comes out and silences them, and the spinners bury them. Heartbreak.
Mahela Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera take 54 in the last four overs. Lasith Malinga follows it up with early wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Finally the final hoodoo is being broken. Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni, though, pull off a cool chase. Heartbreak returned.
Big matches between India and Sri Lanka have somehow left bigger scars than others. The semis and finals between these two have rarely been close. Think Eden Gardens 1996. Think Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas demolishing the psyche of a whole generation of India cricketers over the next three years or so. Or the many times they have knocked India out of major tournaments, either by directly beating them or other teams. Think even the Asia Cup final in 2008.
The captain of that losing Indian team in 2008 was a cricketer unlike any other Indian before him. Those scars left no imprint on his psyche. Under him, in limited-overs cricket, India have paid no heed to things such as history and legacy. Just keep doing your bit, the rest will take care of itself. In the process, they have overcome the shivers the sight of a Sri Lankan side in a big match used to send up the Indian spines. Under him, India have never lost a semi-final, and have been even with Sri Lanka in the finals. The turning point was that World Cup win in 2011, after which they have had it almost too easy against Sri Lanka in the really big matches.
Under that captain, India have put behind them a torrid recent time out of Asia, not just in Tests but also in ODIs, and have bossed this tournament. Dhoni has been the exact opposite of what he was before the break he took: fresh, backing his bowlers, trying to take wickets to slow runs down, making changes even to a winning combination to get the best XI on the field. India have responded superbly. R Ashwin and Amit Mishra have made sure there hasn't been a single horror day in the field. Led by Virat Kohli, the batsmen have risen up to every challenge. Now they are on the brink of doing something that has never been done: go unbeaten through a World T20.
If India have been channeling this rare calm they have achieved despite the turmoil in the administration of their cricket, Sri Lanka have ridden mainly on emotion. This could be the last final two of their greatest players ever play. It has almost been like some player or the other has been pulling them from the brink just for Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. It hasn't been smooth. They even have had to realise that their designated captain for the tournament doesn't merit a place in this XI. They have had to fight dew, they have come back from being bowled out for 119, they have had to drop their main spinner leading into the tournament. You almost feel it is meant to be with every such improbable comeback, but you have felt it often with Sri Lanka.
The pair of Jayawardene and Sangakkara have lost four world finals now. Last year, Sangakkara spoke of the pain eloquently in this interview. "We really need to talk about it being a final," he said. "The more you try to ignore it, the more you think about it. We need to find a way to deal with it." Maybe if somehow, at a canter or through weather or an opposition choke or through a great one over, just some how, if they can win one final, they will stop being so conscious about the match? Then again, they are against a team whose captain specialises in not being conscious of how big a match it is.
Form guideIndia WWWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightLasith Malinga has widely been considered the captain just for the toss with Jayawardene and Sangakkara visibly in charge of the field settings. He has also had some of his worst days on a cricket field against India. This is his chance to put one past the tormentors, and also show a thing or two to those of us who see him as a token captain.
Virat Kohli began becoming the possessed chaser that he is today with a century in a 300-plus chase in an ODI against Sri Lanka. Ever since that he has loved the Sri Lanka attack, especially going after their biggest name, Malinga. At the moment there is no glaring weakness in his game, he is extremely competitive and focused and in form. His lowest score in the tournament has been 23, and Sri Lanka will take if they can somehow give him a new lowest score.
Team newsIt is unlikely India will make a change to their XI. Yuvraj Singh remains a question mark, but as he showed against Australia, he can still cause damage in a 10-ball spell, and you want such players on your side in big matches.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Mohit Sharma
Sri Lanka are closer to finding their best XI, and it doesn't include Dinesh Chandimal, their squad captain. However, you can't be sure if they will keep Thisara Perera out again.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Seekkuge Prasanna/ Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt.), 11 Rangana Herath
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch will help spin, it will be slow too, but if there is a storm around, batting first might not be an automatic choice. There is a reserve day, should the weather not allow a result.
Stat and trivia
"It's a special day tomorrow and we have to do something special for Mahela and Sanga. They are great cricketers and deserve a good farewell."
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga hopes for a fitting T20 farewell for the pair
"We can think of that only after we have won. For now, it is all about doing what will make us successful. We need to play good cricket, and not focus on statistics."
MS Dhoni on the prospect of holding all three limited-overs titles in the space of three years
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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