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Looking ahead with hope and trepidation

The absence of Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth means the Test series will present India with a stiff challenge to justify their No. 1 ranking. India do not have a series victory against the islanders on their home turf and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be eager to set the record straight, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Jul 12, 2010 23:31 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The football fever is over. It's time to shift attention from the quadrennial love affair that lasts a month to a sport that remains the first love.

Also, it is time to start looking forward to the cricket World Cup, which starts in just over seven months.

Despite India and Sri Lanka playing a third full series in as many years, not to mention the six tournaments in between, the current tour, which commences with a three-day warm-up game between the visitors and Sri Lanka Board President's XI today, is vital to both teams.

The absence of Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth means the Test series will present India with a stiff challenge to justify their No. 1 ranking. India do not have a series victory against the islanders on their home turf and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be eager to set the record straight.

For Kumar Sangakkara's men, a series win against the best team in the world will help them move up from the current No 4 spot.

With both sides having a strong batting line-up, the onus will be on the bowlers. What might work to India's advantage is that the magic of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, who shared 47 wickets to help Sri Lanka win the series in 2008, are likely to miss out. While Muralitharan bids farewell to Test cricket after the first Test in Galle, Mendis is a pale shadow of the bowler he was and doesn’t find a place in the squad for the opener.

From India's perspective, Harbhajan Singh will have to take charge of the bowling attack. If Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel fail with the red cherry and Harbhajan doesn't come good later on, India might find it difficult to return home with the trophy.

In the second half of the tour, India will face the hosts and New Zealand in a tri-series that will test their core group for the World Cup. By the time the tri-series starts in Dambulla on August 10, the World Cup, which India and Sri Lanka co-host along with Bangladesh, would be a mere six months away.

Since the tri-series will be followed by home series against Australia and NZ, to be followed by the South Africa tour, Dhoni's men will need to set the ball rolling with a strong performance over the next seven weeks.

Harbhajan ruled out of practice game

Harbhajan Singh will miss the warm-up game on Tuesday. "He has got a viral infection but is expected to be fit for the first Test,” MS Dhoni said.