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The Preview by Sriram Veera
May 10, 2010
Match FactsTuesday, May 11, Gros Islet
The Big PictureThere could well be a signboard outside the stadium in the small lush St Lucia which reads: Hello India and Sri Lanka, a warm welcome to St Lucia where a slow pitch awaits you. We are an oasis for bounce-weary teams. Come soothe your wounds in our island.
The equation: If Sri Lanka beat India, and Australia beat West Indies, Sri Lanka will qualify for the semi-finals on points. Sri Lanka will also get through if they lose to India by less than 20 runs and Australia beat West Indies. If India are to make it, they'll have to beat Sri Lanka by a margin of at least 20 runs, and then hope West Indies lose to Australia. Click here for the full set of permutations and combinations.
It was a familiar tale: Two subcontinent teams were hunted down by bounce and pace. Not many would have been surprised. It happened to India in the previous World Twenty20 and Sri Lanka too don't have a great past against such tactics. It's not that they were bruised and beaten by pace and bounce but were largely unable to score runs freely as they didn't have the horizontal shots to cope with the short-pitched stuff. This Twenty20 format doesn't give you much breathing time; dot balls suffocates the batsmen and their shot-selection goes awry.
Sportsmen have that great skill to forget, though. They seek to learn from their mistakes of course but they don't linger too long on embarrassments. In any case a frenetic tournament like this doesn't afford you to wallow in self-pity. Both India and Sri Lanka have faced each other in the last 18 months so many times that their contests usually induce a yawn in spectators. Perhaps even among the players. However, both teams will be glad to be facing each other in these times of duress. Both, secretly, must be confident that they can beat the other to move to the final four.
The pitch is actually pretty Sri Lankan in nature. However, the team is not clicking together as a unit. Only Mahela Jayawardene has been playing like a dream. Kumar Sangakkara has had one good knock but not many else have found any joy in the middle.
India treated Barbados as if it was St Lucia. Much has been written about India's batting problems but their bowling hasn't been good either. They continued to rely on their spinners which isn't a bad strategy but they have only one quality spinner in Harbhajan Singh. Ravindra Jadeja would want to wake up from his nightmare and forget Barbados. India have the advantage of having played two games on this ground; they know how to cope with the big outfield.
Form guide (most recent first)India: LLWWW
Watch out for...
The bouncer It's a slow pitch but will any of these bouncer-weary teams attempt to test out the other with short delivery? It will define irony but it might not be, pitch-permitting, such a bad idea.
Gautam Gambhir He is India's best player against spin and has a good past record against Sri Lanka. Surely, Sri Lanka will hurl a few bouncers against him early on in the piece but if Gambhir sees through that phase, he can hurt Sri Lanka.
Sanath Jayasuriya: He has almost played as a bowler in the initial games and has flopped as an opener in couple of games. But this is India, his favorite team. And if the past is anything to go by, not many would be surprised if he shines.
Ravindra Jadeja might finally get the chop and replaced by Piyush Chawla. MS Dhoni didn't use R Vinay Kumar in the pacy Barbados and there is no reason to expect him to play Vinay on this slow track. The pitch also offers the best chance for Yusuf Pathan to come good.
India(probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 M Vijay, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ashish Nehra.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt, wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Sanath Jayasuriya, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Chanaka Welegedera.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch is slow, the outfield slower and it's a big ground; the boundaries aren't going to be easy to come by. And spin should dominate. Well that's the conventional wisdom. With two teams looking to bounce back from humiliation and desperately seeking a victory, theories can fly out of the window.
Stats and trivia
Quotes" We would like to do well [in St. Lucia] against a team that looks in good form, and leave the equation to itself, look to do well, whatever is the equation. We can't do much about it. What we can do is win that game, and that can be our consolation prize more than anything else."
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