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Captains gear up for tough challenge

Both Mahela Jayawardene and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are expecting the five-ODI contest, which starts on January 28 in Dambulla, to be a closely-fought affair

Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels his team will benefit from having recently played in Sri Lanka © AFP
Both Mahela Jayawardene and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are expecting the five-ODI contest, which starts on January 28 in Dambulla, to be a closely-fought affair. India edged out Sri Lanka 3-2 in the ODIs during their visit in July-August last year, but the hosts are confident about their prospects after their recent 2-1 success in Pakistan.
"It's going to be a tough, challenging series but we are looking forward to that challenge," Jayawardene said. "Things happened for us in Pakistan which is good. We should try and continue that trend.
"I put the success that we had in Pakistan [down] to the way we successfully adapted to the tough conditions in Zimbabwe and in Bangladesh," he added. "A lot of younger guys put their hands up and a lot of character was shown in our team. In different situations certain players played really well. That gave a lot of guys the confidence going forward.
"The way we lost the first game in Pakistan was really tough for us. We had a chat and we knew exactly what went wrong and the next two games was history. The way our boys played was brilliant. The last three months have taught us quite a few lessons and hopefully we'll learn from that and continue to improve as a unit."
While Sri Lanka have been on the road for the past three months, India have enjoyed successes at home, against Australia and England, and the luxury of a break in a cramped schedule thanks to the cancellation of the Pakistan tour - the absence of which has led to Sri Lanka playing both teams.
In the 3-2 win last time around, Dhoni won four tosses, which he felt would play a vital role. "It's not the weather but the wickets behave in a strange way in Sri Lanka," he said. "The ball grips on and it is slightly slower. In the last one-and-a-half years you have venues like Dambulla and Premadasa Stadium where it seams around in the evening especially under the lights. If it is a day game in Dambulla the ball does a lot. That's why the toss is very important."
India will be without an experienced campaigner in Harbhajan Singh, and Dhoni said it was a chance for left-arm spinners Pragyan Ojha and the uncapped Ravindra Jadeja to prove their mettle. "Harbhajan has been the pick of the bowlers when it comes to spinners," Dhoni said. "He is one person who wants to perform in a game. We will miss him. We have two spinners in the side Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja who will try to fill in the space. We also have part-timers who have done well."
With the pitches favouring spin, Dhoni does not foresee a tough time for them. "One plus point is that over here the spinners get the assistance from the wicket," he said. "It won't be really tough for them if they find a good length. It will be comparatively easy compared to a wicket that doesn't assist them and favours the batsmen. It's a fair opportunity for both the spinners to prove themselves when your leading spinner is not there."