What India need to do against Sri Lanka's key players

Don't get rid of your slips when Avishka Fernando is batting. There will edges to take Getty Images

Avishka Fernando
The brightest star in the Sri Lanka batting line-up didn't play the first few games, and once he did, the question everyone asked was: why didn't he play from the beginning?

Fernando is fairly organised at the crease and is equally good at front- and back-foot play. Since he stands tall and is perfectly balanced, he hits a lot of balls on the up off the front foot. That can either be a deterrent to the bowler to pitch it further up or an encouragement. Batsmen who like to play on the up are also ones who play through the line, so a slight deviation in the air or off the surface is always handy against them. It won't be a bad idea to pitch it really full and a little wide in the early parts of his innings, for his attacking instincts might take his arms closer to the ball even before his feet start moving.

The other aspect of his play is that since he hits a lot of good-looking drives on both sides of the pitch, captains take out the slip fielder a little too soon. He has edged a few in the tournament - only to find the slip cordon empty.

Along with driving the ball really well, he is also a capable player against the short ball - his pull and hook shots against England were a treat to watch. But just like Fernando driving well shouldn't encourage the bowling captain to remove the slip fielder, his ability to pull and hook shouldn't prevent the bowler from testing him with a few bouncers.

Kusal Perera
The left-hand opener's style of play reminds me of the great Sanath Jayasuriya: he chokes the handle of the bat in the grip, has a very limited bat swing but an exceptional ability to get the hands through at high speed, and uses the aerial route often.

Perera's working areas are square either side of the pitch. He will always stay inside the line and go hard whenever there's any width on offer. Bowling short into his body or outside of it isn't a good ploy, for that's where he likes it. It's important that you don't allow him to open up both sides of the wicket because then it becomes difficult to set fields in the first ten overs.

While bowling over the wicket, it's ideal to pitch it full, around the off-stump line, because he is unlikely to drive through mid-off that often. But there's no harm in quickly switching to round the stumps to cramp him for room. That way you hamper his ability to play the square-cut and drive, which will increase the chances of him chopping it back on to the stumps.

The pitch at Headingley offers a little bit of lateral movement while the ball is new and it's important to use it to your advantage.

Angelo Mathews
The most experienced Sri Lanka batsman started the World Cup poorly but played the innings that changed the fortunes of his team and infused life into the tournament. You don't make the number of runs Mathews has made in international cricket without an organised technique and style, and that has come to the fore a few times in this tournament too. It's still a mystery why he doesn't bat higher up the order, for ODI innings are controlled and given shape by the top three, or at most, the top four.

Mathews is likely to bide his time initially while he looks to rotate strike. He is unlikely to play an adventurous shot unless the situation demands it. The plan against him could be to bowl fuller but with lots of changes of pace, with a catching cover and midwicket fielder - he is susceptible to playing it in the air in those regions.

Recently he has struggled to rotate the strike, and that fact mustn't be lost on India. If you dry up his singles, it's only a matter of time before he's forced to do something he would rather not - taking the aerial route - and that could lead to his dismissal.

Lasith Malinga
He has lost a little bit of pace but is still a valuable contributor to the team. There was a time when he would consistently bowl at 140kph but now he operates in the early 130s. While the lack of pace has made him slightly less effective, he has found a way to make it work for him while the ball is new by focusing on swinging it, and therefore pitching it a lot fuller. If you are a right-hand batsman, you will do well to respect his full deliveries, assuming that they will mostly be going away from you.

With the old ball, Malinga is missing his mark more often than he used to in the past, but he still finds the target more often than his team-mates. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have been exceptional against him even in his pomp, so they might still treat him the same way, but for the newer players, like Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant, it might not be a bad idea to assume that the old warhorse still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Malinga has not lost the ability to understand the situation and its demands, and that must always be respected.