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India play Lanka, pray for Australia

A win alone is not sufficient for India to qualify for semi-finals as they will have to win big in their last Super Eights clash against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Not only this, India will also require Australia to beat hosts West Indies in the other match of the day. See Special | See graphics

cricket Updated: May 11, 2010 08:46 IST
HT Correspondent

As the crow flies, or indeed the incredibly unreliable Caribbean airline, Liat, the distance between Barbados and St Lucia is a mere 172 kilometres. But for the India team, the two islands are a world apart.

The reason for this is that piece of real estate that means more to cricketers than any other — the 22 yards between the two sets of stumps that they ply their trade on. At the Kensington Oval in Barbados, the extra pace and bounce forces batsmen, with thousands of international runs under the belt, to hop and jump like club cricketers. When the team returns to St Lucia for their final match of the Super Eights, against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, it will be a virtual homecoming for the two teams.

The sluggish pitch at the Beausejour Stadium will make it difficult for even the mighty Australians to successfully bounce out teams, and instead bring the spinners right back to the fore. In Barbados, all talk has justifiably centred around the short-ball strategy that has been the bane of all the sub-continental teams, whose batsmen aren't accustomed to playing in bouncy conditions and whose bowlers aren't best equipped to exploit them.

In St Lucia, the contest, one that India need to win by a difference of at least 20 runs to stay in the hunt for a place in the final four, will unfold in a more familiar manner. Just as India celebrate this fact, they will be sobered down by the admission that this helps Sri Lanka as well, and makes it doubly difficult for the Australians to beat the West Indies, another result that needs to go India's way.