India look to dominate ODI top slot, Sri Lanka keen to salvage pride
Kolkata: Having already pocketed the series, a rampaging India would like to continue their dominance and strengthen their number one ODI spot as a hapless Sri Lanka look to salvage some pride during the penultimate game of the five-match Limited over International rubber at the Eden Gardens here Thursday.
Led by the flamboyant Virat Kohli, in the absence of regular skipper M.S. Dhoni nursing a thumb injury, Team India have outplayed the Islanders, handing them crushing defeats in the first three matches to take an unassailable lead in the series.
India had jumped to the top spot after they won the second match of the five-game series against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad. And after securing an unassailable 3-0 lead, they are ahead of second-ranked South Africa by one point with Australia one more point behind in the third spot.
With the selectors resting regular opener Shikhar Dhawan, all eyes will be on Robin Uthappa who last played for India in June. Rohit Sharma, returning to the squad after a two-month injury layoff, is also bound to grab the spotlight.
Cracking two 50s and a century, Dhawan has scored 283 runs to be the top scorer so far.
However, there is disappointment in store for the home crowd, as local boy and keeper Wriddhiman Saha been rested. Uthappa, who keeps for his IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, is expected to don the big gloves.
If required, Ambati Rayudu can also take up wicket keeping duties.
Tweaking the squad for the last two games, the selection panel has brought in Karn Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Kedar Jadhav, at the expense Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Saha, Ishant Sharma, M. Vijay, Varun Aaron and Mohammed Shami.
The visitors too have shuffled their squad, and are looking up to old warhorse Mahela Jayawardene and dashing opener Tilakratne Dilshan. Jayawardane hit an elegant century in the last ODI, and his efforts would be crucial for a Sri Lankan resurgence.
Plagued by a string of poor batting display, Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews had no qualms in accepting his side played poorly.
"We haven't played well. We haven't batted well in all three games," Mathews said after conceding the series in Hyderabad.
Out of form by his high standards, Kumar Sangakkara has been rested along side Dhammika Prasad, Suraj Randiv and Upul Tharanga. Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Ajantha Mendis and Shaminda Eranga are the replacements.
The mystery spin of Mendis and Eranga's death bowling is expected to give teeth to the Sri Lankan attack that has looked listless in the absence of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga and left arm slow Rangana Herath.
Having snared eight wickets in the series, Umesh Yadav would spearhead India's pace attack while leggie Karn Sharma, who has found a place in the Australia-bound Test squad, may get a look in.
Touted as India's future full-time captain, Kohli has led with elan, and already amplified the desire of making team India 'ruthless'.
"I think what we are trying to achieve is being ruthless. If you want to be ruthless, if you want big and convincing wins, it's very important to address the issues that happen," Kohli had said prior to the Hyderabad match.
The star batsman, who has been named captain for the opening Test against Australia in December, would hope to continue his good run both as a skipper and with the bat.
On the hallowed Eden Gardens turf, the Indians have beaten the Sri Lankans twice in four games, while one yielded a no result. Statistically, the hosts are favourites, and could try out different batting and bowling combinations, especially with less than 100 days left before they embark on their campaign to defend the World Cup title.
The last time the two sides met on this ground was in December, 2009. Then India had trounced Sri Lanka by 7 wickets, riding on hundreds from Gautam Gambhir and Kohli. In a run feast, both the teams scored in excess of 300. Upul Tharanga had too got to the three-figure mark.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Ashan Priyanjan, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lahiru Gamage, Chaturanga de Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Ajanta Mendis, Shaminda Eranga
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, K. Sharma, Axar Patel, V. Kumar.