Preview

One eye on the World Cup

After the non-match at the Eden Gardens got this series off to the wettest possible start, both India and Sri Lanka are hoping that there isn't a repeat when they clash in the second game on Sunday



Sehwag's last one-day series in South Africa was an unmitigated disaster © Getty Images
After the non-match at the Eden Gardens got this series off to the wettest possible start, both teams are hoping that there isn't a repeat when they clash in the second game on Sunday. Saturday was overcast and cool, and talk of rain in nearby Bhuj did not calm the nerves at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground in Rajkot. It rarely ever rains in Rajkot at this time of the year, but then again, that was the case in Kolkata as well.
For the moment, though, it was as though Kolkata never happened. India still have the same fitness concerns, Sri Lanka are still waiting to give some of their players a run in the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, who have been rested, and fans - more like 10,000 at this ground rather than the 100,000 at the Eden Gardens - are waiting for a contest. It's as though fresh guard has been taken, and the series begins here.
Continuing niggles
The news from the Indian camp was not particularly encouraging, as Rahul Dravid once again found himself in a position where he was unable to name a 12-man shortlist on the eve of the match. Irfan Pathan (shoulder) and Yuvraj Singh (back) both haven't recovered fully yet, although there was significant improvement in that they were able to take full part in practice, something that did not happen in Kolkata. There, Pathan batted but did not bowl and Yuvraj did neither. Although Yuvraj appeared in some discomfort, he did bat in the nets ahead of the second game. The other concern is Ajit Agarkar, who is on antibiotics and doing his best to recover from flu. He too bowled, although not at full capacity, and was a bit flat.
Go on as you began
With no fitness concerns whatsoever, Sri Lanka are unlikely to make any changes to their team that played the 18.2 overs in Kolkata. Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, did indicate that any final decision on the composition of the team would only be made after looking at the conditions on the morning of the match, but logic dictates that they play more or less the same team. The big positive for them was the powerful batting of Sanath Jayasuriya, who seems to have an unusual fondness for the Indian bowling attack, no matter who it comprises.
A new day
One of the most predictable quotes you hear before the start of a match is that "tomorrow is a new day." And in this case it is actually quite applicable. The ground here at Rajkot is so different from the Eden Gardens that there's little to take from the previous truncated encounter. Where there were acres of space in the outfield at the Eden Gardens, there are short boundaries here. In comparison to the flat pitch in Kolkata, there's a hint of grass on a hard light-coloured 22-yard strip here. In place of the balmy sea breeze that inevitably swirled in over the imposing stands there is only a cool, arid wind that blows unobstructed through tiny, barely visible single-storey stands here. There's little point predicting the result of these one-day games, but it might just be safe to predict a high-scoring affair at Rajkot.
Non-selection
One of the focal points in this one-day series so far has been the fact that the teams will be announcing their 15-man World Cup squads at the end of the second match. All events have been viewed through those tinted glasses, but it's not necessarily accurate to do so. The Indian selectors are certainly not using these two matches as the criterion to pick the squad for the World Cup. The fate of a Virender Sehwag, who has been playing international cricket for seven years now, did not hinge on his performance in two matches, and with one rained out, it does not hinge on the next one. Sure, there is bound to be a heightened sense of anticipation with selection for the world's premier cricket tournament following the second match but in real terms, it puts no extra pressure on the players.
The one problem, though, is that India will not be able to get a full idea about the match readiness of Yuvraj - who has batted only once in an international in three-and-a-half months, should he be unable to play. On the recent tour of South Africa Pathan barely played a match, and has since played just one ODI. It would help the selectors if he could have a bowl, and answer some of the questions posed about his bowling form.
Teams
India (likely) 1 Robin Uthappa, 2 Sourav Ganguly, 3 Virender Sehwag, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Rahul Dravid (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Sreesanth, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.
Sri Lanka (from) 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Marvan Atapattu, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chamara Silva, 8 Russel Arnold, 9 Upul Chandana, 10 Farveez Maharoof, 11 Lasith Malinga, 12 Dilhara Fernando, 13 Malinga Bandara, 14 Nuwan Zoysa, 15 Nuwan Kulasekera.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo