India Seek Series Win In Quest Of Number One ODI Team Tag
The winning momentum back after their three successive wins, India would seek to maintain their supremacy over Sri Lanka and start the season on a positive note when they take on the islanders in the final of the cricket tri-series in Mirpur on Wednesday.
India lost their opening match of the tri-series against Sri Lanka on January 5 but bounced back strongly with three thumping wins - two against Bangladesh and one against Kumar Sangakkara and his men - to be high on confidence as they go into the summit showdown.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side had a successful ODI record last year winning four series. They would be eager to pocket the ongoing tri-series as well, which will come as a morale booster not only going into the Test series against Bangladesh starting in Chittagong on January 17 but also for the tough season ahead.
After the Asia Cup in Pakistan in June 2008, India have won all the tournaments involving Sri Lanka except for the ICC Champions Trophy and Dhoni and his men would want to extend their dominance over the islanders at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium tomorrow.
A win tomorrow will also narrow down the gap between India and current ICC ODI rankings leader Australia. India are seven points adrift Australia at 123 points going into the tri-series and having achieved the world number one status in Tests last month, they would be eager to occupy the top spot in ODIs as well sooner than later.
The match will also create a record of maximum number of games being played between any two countries in one-dayers. Tomorrow's encounter will be the 121st between India and Sri Lanka, eclipsing the record between Australia and West Indies (120).
India's batting still remains the strong point with all the top order in good nick and Virat Kohli the most impressive among the lot, as he became the highest run scorer in the tournament with a century against Bangladesh yesterday.
The return of Virender Sehwag, after missing two matches, would also bolster the already strong Indian batting line-up.
Sehwag's return to the playing eleven means Dinesh Karthik, who did reasonably well in the last two matches, will have to sit out of the summit clash.
India's bowling though had been patchy and inconsistent in the tournament so far. The Zaheer Khan-led bowling attack struggled in the first two games before producing an impressive performance on Sunday against Sri Lanka, which Dhoni said was one of the best efforts in recent times.
However, inconsistency at death continued to haunt the Indian bowling department as they again leaked runs in the final overs against Bangladesh yesterday.
And if India desire to lift the trophy, then pace spearhead Zaheer, who will return tomorrow after being rested against Bangladesh in the last game, will have to come up with an inspiring performance tomorrow.
After having rested the last two matches, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is expected to return tomorrow, which means leggie Amit Mishra will have to face the axe.
But the most interesting thing to watch out for is whether young Sudeep Tyagi, who was impressive in the last two games, would be preferred ahead of S Sreesanth, who has leaked runs even though he had taken four wickets in as many matches.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, would be desperate to record their first series win against India in nearly two years. The islanders have lost two bilateral series and the final of a tournament at home - the Compaq Cup in September last year.
The Sri Lankans must be a bit low in morale after their crushing defeat at the hands of India in their last match, especially after being on a roll following three three successive victories.
But with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga in great touch and Sangakkara providing the stability at the number three spot, the islanders can beat any side on a given day.
Captain Sangakkara has been the tournament's second highest scorer with 219 runs behind Kohli while former skipper Mahela Jayawardene, who has a century under his belt in the event, provides the class and solidity in the middle order.
A lot will also depend on the toss as dew is still playing an important role in the outcome of the matches with the bowlers struggling to grip the ball in the evening. PTI