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Crucial match for India at Goa today

India are 0-1 down and only resolute and aggressive cricket can win them the next 2 games, writes AR Hemant.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2007 02:44 IST
AR Hemant

Love is not in the air. On St Valentine's day, when India meet Sri Lanka in a critical one-day international here, the theme would likely be “Don't Tread On Me” rather than “As Long As You Love Me”.

In the ongoing Hero Honda Cup, India are 0-1 down and only some aggressive, resolute cricket can help them win this game, and also the next one at Vizag, to claim the trophy.

The two teams will compete for top honours in Group B in the World Cup, so the winner in this series would go to the West Indies feeling a foot taller.

On a pitch seems to be saying ‘come hither’ to the batsmen, India will not have the services of S Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble. While Sreesanth is being rested, Pathan has a sore shoulder and Kumble had to rush home to Bangalore for “personal reasons”.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have a slight worry in the form of wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara, who is down with a stomach bug and had to skip practice. Captain Mahela Jayawardene, however, said it wasn't a concern and that he should be fit for Wednesday's game.

Virender Sehwag, who has been a sandwich short of a picnic for long now, will be considered for the opener's slot on Wednesday, captain Rahul Dravid said.

However, Dravid added that they'll only go for a combination that works best on the day. Sehwag, India's regular opener since 2001, was demoted to four-down in the last game at Rajkot, though that was not a fruitful move, yielding just 19 runs.

Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Yuvraj Singh, who had played no part in the five-run loss in that Rajkot game, are expected to be back for Wednesday's game. RP Singh and Suresh Raina will join the squad as stand-by players.

Dravid said Yuvraj had recovered from his back spasms. That augers well for India — the last time the team played here, Yuvraj spanked England for a 76-ball hundred and India won.

Dravid, peeved by a comment by Jayawardene, said India are not taking these matches lightly and are looking to win each game.

Earlier in the day, the Lankan captain had said they were looking to win all their games and that their healthy desire to prevail over the odds had shown in the Rajkot game, which Lanka won after staring at a certain defeat.

“It was in the last five or six overs that the game slipped from our hands,” Dravid said, adding that they were in control for 92-93 overs. “We hope not to repeat that mistake.”

India needed 45 runs in 10 overs in that game, with MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik going strong. From a position of strength, India collapsed and lost narrowly.

Pitch might spin later

The pitch is being described as a good one-day wicket. Curator Suryakant Desai said 280 should be par for the course. India had hit England for 294 during that game in April last year. However, Dravid said it might turn a little later.

“It might play slow in the second innings,” he said. “But it looks a good one to bat on.”

If the track stays true, it will be one more in the long list of batting beauties that have been lined up for the Indian batsmen to get back into form.

They had performed woefully on South Africa's bouncy wickets and desperately needed to find form before the World Cup. And they've managed to do that in the last few games against West Indies and Sri Lanka.