Inexperience in the Sri Lanka middle-order in Mahela Jayawardene’s absence could well turn out to be the difference between the two teams when India open their tri-series campaign at the Sher-e Bangla National Stadium on Tuesday.
India will be boosted by the return of Yuvraj Singh, who missed most of the one-day series against Sri Lanka last month due to a finger injury and flu. Simultaneously, Sachin Tendulkar’s opting out of the series will mean Yuvraj can be fitted back in the side without a youngster having to sit out. Virat Kohli had to be left out in Cuttack, the only match Yuvraj played in the last series, but then the 21-year-old Delhi lad came back strongly at the Eden to record his first international century.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a brilliant 2009 and Suresh Raina too is among the runs. With Ravindra Jadeja to follow there is a lot to depth in the batting line-up.
Sri Lanka will definitely be a touch more accustomed to the conditions, having played hosts Bangladesh in the opener on Monday, but the absence of Jayawardene will be felt. The former Sri Lanka captain, who was struggling to get runs in the series, was injured after the fourth ODI at Eden and has not travelled with the team.
But his experience and composure could have come in handy.
Sanath Jayasuriya, after being used a couple of times in the middle-order, was dropped. And now, after their very successful opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga, with skipper Kumar Sangakkara to follow, there is hardly anyone with experience to hold the innings together in the second half.
Chamara Silva has been recalled after almost 18 months and Thilan Samaraweera has been retained to ease some pressure off Thilina Kandamby. But India will be looking to get past the top three and expose the middle-order as early as possible.
Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth all kicked up good pace and got the ball to do a bit during India’s nets session on a chilly and overcast Monday morning. Provided the cold wave that has hit this part of the world continues, medium-pacers could get some initial help.
That, and the dew factor only add to the importance of fielding first.
The slowness of the wicket could make Harbhajan Singh and Jadeja’s role crucial in the middle overs. But Harbhajan was conspicuous by his absence at the optional training session, which everyone else attended. But skipper Dhoni said there was nothing wrong with him. “As of now, he is fine. He just opted out of the training session today,” he said. “But the way things have happened over the last few days you never know,” he joked.