If Sanath Jayasuriya proved that age is just a number, the Indian team will take comfort from the thought that the International Cricket Council’s rankings are also just a number.
While it’s a good talking point to see which team is at the top of the charts, and a badge of honour to be called the No. 1 team in the world, what this group is really after is being considered the best team in the world by their peers.
For a while now it was considered difficult to be consistent in ODIs. But the introduction of Twenty20 cricket has made the 50-over game feel like a long-drawn out affair and made people realise that 300 balls is actually a long time for an innings.
On the day before the final at the R Premadasa Stadium, three teams who will play each other in the Champions Trophy shortly were in completely different spaces in world cricket.
Sri Lanka have grown in stature, boast a varied bowling attack, and even the up and down nature of their batting has been papered over in home conditions.
India, after two days of hard practice and two days of back-to-back matches, were in fine tuning mode.
New Zealand, well, they were in coffee shops and swimming pools, shopping malls and restaurants, having failed abjectly to lift their game enough to challenge either of the other teams in this tri-series.
Of India’s players who took part in the matches on Friday and Saturday, only Yuvraj Singh joined the reserves at a net session.
Having fallen to Daniel Vettori’s spin in the first game and failing to come to terms with Lasith Malinga’s pace and swing in the second game, Yuvraj worked on his batting basics. Gary Kirsten, himself a left-handed batsman, fired in hard tennis balls with a tennis racquet, imparting spin and swerve on the ball, getting it to kick awkwardly at times.
As much as Yuvraj worked on blunting dangerous deliveries, he concentrated on leaving alone anything that didn’t threaten his stumps.
Virat Kohli, who batted and bowled in the nets, was the subject of much discussion as it became known that he had been named replacement for Gautam Gambhir despite having been advised eight weeks’ rest by fitness experts at the National Cricket Academy.
Since then Kohli has played for ONGC in the Corporate Trophy, and is demonstrably able to play, even if he is still bothered by a niggle.
It’s not something Mahendra Singh Dhoni will worry about at all, as India looked likely to make no changes to the team that has played the first two matches of the series. If anything they might consider bringing Praveen Kumar into the mix, but neither RP Singh nor Ashish Nehra have bowled themselves out of contention for the final.
Like Anil Kumble before him, Dhoni is one captain who does not care much for talk about rankings or the toss or the weather. Even he was forced to sound a warning: “Once you win the toss you have the game 60 % in your favour. If you score around 270 then you are 80 % sure of winning the game.”
The most crucial aspect of Monday’s final could take place half an hour before a ball is bowled.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Rudra Pratap Singh, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar.
Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Dammika Prasad, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Thushara