Fifty days since crossing the Palk Strait and almost a dozen injuries and ailments later, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men are on the verge of ending their tour on a high.
If the Men in Blue outdo Kumar Sangakkara’s outfit in Saturday tri-series final at the Dambulla Stadium, it will be the first time India will return without losing a full series. It will also help the India skipper maintain his record of not having lost a series in Sri Lanka.
For that to happen, a lot of hurdles will have to be crossed. More than countering the Malingas, Jayawardenes, Sangakkaras and Dilshans, India will be wary of the issues within the team.
No batsman apart from Virender Sehwag and Dhoni, to an extent, has been able to master the seamer-friendly conditions. If Sehwag is softened up early, the fragile middle order will be exposed.
Going by his track record, Sehwag is known to sizzle under pressure. But if he has a bad day, India’s hopes of avenging the final loss in Dhaka earlier this year will remain a dream.
The bowling, for a change, has emerged as the stronger unit with the seamers coming good. Despite the absence of Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra have made optimum use of the favourable conditions to restrict the opposition in both the victories.
With India set to retain the four-seamer theory, which reaped rich reward against New Zealand in Wednesday’s virtual semifinal, the team management will look to bolster the batting by playing a specialist batsman at No. 7.
Instead of relying on Ravindra Jadeja, it will be better if they test rookie Saurabh Tiwary, who has been with the ODI team for the last three months without getting a call-up. “If we feel the wicket is dry and not hard, Jadeja will get a spot, but if we feel it won’t help the spinners and we feel like playing an extra batsman, Jadeja will have to sit out,” said Dhoni on Friday.
Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara made it clear that the squad is injury free and the hosts are set to retain the team that whipped India on Sunday.
Though the game saw the biggest turnout of the tournament, the crowd was deprived of a close finish. In fact, none of the six league games have seen a tight finish.
When Dhoni and Sangakkara walk out for the toss on Saturday, the fans, while hoping for the hosts’ victory, will be praying for a game that goes down to the wire.