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India banking on youth to make amends in ODIs

cricket Updated: Aug 17, 2008 16:10 IST
TV Sriram
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A wounded India would bank on its young blood to make amends for their humiliating loss in the Test cricket series against Sri Lanka as it takes on the hosts in the first of their five one-dayers in Dambulla on Monday.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was badly missed at the middle-order in the three-Tests series, returns to lead the side knowing that it would be imperative for him to soon find a way to crack the code of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, who is fast gaining the reputation as their nemesis.

The Island nation has always been one of the toughest venues for India but Dhoni hopes his young brigade would grab the opportunity and come good to make a mark in the absence of seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman.

Dhoni has contended that the visitors were energised with inclusion of youngsters Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Subramaniam Badrinath, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar.

"Sri Lanka is one of the toughest places to play cricket as you don't get a lot of runs on slow, low wickets. You have to always stay positive," he said.

The Indian ODI side would also be infused with the freshness of Yuvraj Singh, who hit an explosive 172 against the LankanXI in a practice match and gave indication that he was in the best of his forms.

The Punjab-batsman, however, said Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, who made India bite dust in the Tests, would make a deadly combo.

"Obviously, I have to face a better attack when I play the ODI. But my innings was against an international side. With Mendis and Muralitharan, Sri lanka will have a potent attack," said Yuvraj.

After a dismal showing by the batsmen in the Test series, the visitors will also have to pay special attention to building up partnerships during the ODIs as it would be the key in posting big scores.

However, the victory in the practice match against a moderate Lankan XI bowling attack, after scoring heavily in a slow and low wicket, would have done a world of good to the demoralised visitors.

For Sri Lanka, it is not so much the batting line up that the home team needs to worry about, but the combination of bowlers as captain Mahela Jayawardene has no bowling all-rounder in the squad to choose from in the first two ODIs.

However, the fact that the Lankan skipper has not exposed his spin twins against the young Indian side might help him to take a stranglehold of the ODI series.

Mendis, who was the nemesis when the Islanders trampled India by 100 runs in last month's Asia Cup final at Karachi, even unsettled the old war horsesSachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V V S Laxman in the recent Test series and in the due process broke the world record of highest number of wickets in a debut series with 26 scalps.

Experts here believe that going by the current vicious turners from Mendis and Murali, Indian could be the underdogs unless they shuck off the manacles and post a victory in the first match of the series.

However, former skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, who is expected to open against the Indians, has cautioned his side against writing off the visitors after their humiliating third Test defeat.

Jayasuriya says the "pride" of the Indian team has been affected and they would like to make up by winning the one dayers.

Besides, Mendis, who took six wickets for 13 runs, Jayasuriya too played a significant part in the Asia Cup final, hammering an aggressive century.

The dangerous left-hander is also the second-highest scorer in ODIs with 12,688 runs, behind Tendulkar (16,361).

India's record at Dambulla does not speak much as they won two and lost one from their three previous outings here. However, last time the visitors played here in 2005, they suffered a four wicket defeat at the hand of the Lankans.

Teams:

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha.

Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Udawatte, Chamara Silva, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedara, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando, Ajantha Mendis, Thilina Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Jehan Mubarak, Malinda Warnapura.

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