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First among equals? Force rests with Team India in absentia

It’s never a good idea to treat an international event as practice for something bigger that follows. But there was no avoiding the fact on Monday when a bemused Daniel Vettori and a chirpy Kumar Sangakkara addressed the largely Indian media contingent in Colombo, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Sep 08, 2009 00:22 IST
Anand Vasu

It’s never a good idea to treat an international event as practice for something bigger that follows. But there was no avoiding the fact on Monday when a bemused Daniel Vettori and a chirpy Kumar Sangakkara addressed the largely Indian media contingent in Colombo.

Although Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his merry men are back home playing in the Corporate Trophy, the Indian team’s fortunes were the focus of most of the questions.

When Sri Lanka Cricket extended an invitation to India, it made perfect sense for them as hosts, as a tri-series involving India would make them enough money to stay solvent a bit longer.

For India, coming off their longest layoff in recent memory, having last beaten the West Indies 2-1 in June-July, it made perfect sense to get a bit of 50-over cricket under the belt ahead of the Champions Trophy.

What about New Zealand? Well, they had little choice in the matter and what was originally scheduled to be a five-match bilateral series was quickly converted into a four-game tournament.

To even call this shindig a tournament seems odd, given how few matches there are in all. Contrast this with the newly expanded Indian Premier League, which will feature 94 matches in one season alone.

There are many things about Sri Lankan cricket that are wonderfully unpredictable, whether it is the idiosyncratic action of a Lasith Malinga, the quirky slow bowling of an Ajantha Mendis or the hyperactive energy of the 40-year-old Sanath Jayasuriya.

Equally, however, there are things about Sri Lankan cricket that are mind numbingly predictable, and a couple of these could have a huge role to play in the tri-series.

The first of these is the rain - evening showers have been a feature of the weather pattern over the last week.

Although recent spells have been short and sharp, with all matches scheduled to be day-nighters, there’s a good chance that the teams will have to keep Duckworth-Lewis tables handy.

The second, and more worrying aspect, is the fact that the toss plays such a huge role at the R Premadasa Stadium, where all matches will be played.

The pitch has always been on the slow side, and batting just gets progressively difficult as day gives in to night.

The team winning the toss and choosing to bat first has won the last 11 matches at the venue.

It’s not a venue where batsmen get high value for strokeplay either, with 300 being achieved just once in 30 ODIs on the ground since 2004. Oddly enough, in the same period, spinners haven’t had a great time, picking up only 160 wickets compared to the 262 fast bowlers have managed.

In short, this is a venue that makes for tough, grinding cricket, no matter what type of player you are. In that sense, it’s the perfect warm-up for India ahead of the Champions Trophy.

Irrespective of the result, India will want to shake off any rustiness with some competitive matchplay, and the two teams they are up against are both just the sort to relish challenging conditions.

Chance for India to become number one

New Delhi: India have a chance to claim number-one place in the Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Championship if they win all three matches, including the final, in the triangular series.

India trail number-one ranked South Africa by just one point, but they stand to gain two points if they win in Sri Lanka.