India vs Sri Lanka: After PAK high, Virat Kohli’s men eye Champions Trophy semis | icc-champions-trophy-2017 | Hindustan Times
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India vs Sri Lanka: After PAK high, Virat Kohli’s men eye Champions Trophy semis

Buoyed by the comprehensive win over Pakistan, defending champions India start favourites against struggling Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy tie at The Oval.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 07, 2017 20:57 IST
Soumitra Bose
India will start as overwhelming favourites against Sri Lanka in their ICC Champions Trophy group game at The Oval.
India will start as overwhelming favourites against Sri Lanka in their ICC Champions Trophy group game at The Oval. (AP)

Cricket’s eccentricities notwithstanding, India will look to waste no time to slay Sri Lanka and guarantee themselves a place in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy semifinals at The Oval on Thursday. Having whipped Pakistan in their opening match at Birmingham on Sunday, the odds are stacked heavily in favour of the defending champions.

The win against Pakistan would have had two big impacts on the Indian dressing room. One, it has given ample confidence to the top order batsmen that English conditions can be tamed with application, and two, the reported ‘rift’ between skipper Virat Kohli and head coach Anil Kumble, was nothing more than conjecture.

The sanity in the dressing room has a great effect on a team’s morale. If reports of Kumble applying for the head coach’s job are true then that’s the best tonic for the Indian team in UK. It can be imagined that at least two members of the heavy-duty Cricket Advisory Committee –Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar – are playing a positive role to help Virat Kohli relax and ensure cricket is not affected by off-field issues.

In a short and intense tournament like the ICC Champions Trophy, the margin for error is so less that it is mandatory to stay within the realms of just cricket and eschew nonsense that creates negativity.

India’s fielding blues

Against Pakistan, according to Kohli, India’s batting and bowling scored 9 on a scale of 10. And, if the fielding can be improved from six to eight, then Sri Lanka better watch out. India will look to polish the rough edges before the knockouts are played on June 14 and 15.

How anaemic has Sri Lanka looked in recent times. A team sans Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara or Tillakaratne Dilshan looks like burnt toast. It is such an irony that Sangakkara continues to score loads of runs for Surrey, whose home is The Oval, the venue of Wednesday’s India vs Sri Lanka match, a day game starting at 3 PM IST.

Sri Lanka is a team full of potential. But on a world stage, talent is not everything. Just like Pakistan, the Lankans were hit by stage fright in their 96-run loss against South Africa in their first Group B match.

Lanka will miss their veteran opener Upul Tharanga versus India. The left-handed Tharanga, who has a batting average of 53.85 in Champions Trophy, is serving a two-match suspension, as stand-in skipper for the slow over-rate against South Africa on Saturday. The Lankans took over four hours to bowl their 50 overs, a clear indication of team mismanagement.

SL skipper fitness

Skipper Angelo Mathews should be back in the saddle. The injury-prone all-rounder should be fit to bat and may chip in with a few overs. Lanka’s bowling attack, led by Lasith Malinga, looks their biggest strength and if the islanders have to make an impact, the onus is on the bowlers.

India have won 14 of their last 17 ODI matches against Sri Lanka. That includes the last five meetings between the two teams.

India and Sri Lanka have met thrice in the Champions Trophy but two of them ended as no results; India won the most recent such encounter in 2013 (by eight wickets). India will hate if rain intervenes.

If South Africa beat Pakistan, then Sri Lanka must beat India to stay in the hunt, a massive improbability.