Plenty has been said about the fact that Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas are missing from this important series leading up to the World Cup, but I think that's actually a blessing because it gives the two a well-earned break. They are two of the pillars of this side, and since much is expected of them in both forms of the game, they will obviously need to freshen up physically and mentally for the World Cup.
Besides, their absence also gives some of the younger players the opportunity to assume greater responsibility. Leg-spinner Malinga Bandara, for instance, has done well whenever given opportunities --- which, frankly, been few and far between.
When we were operating under the Super Sub rule, we had a chance to get him more involved in the game as a player, so this series is a great chance for him to perform to potential once again. True, the younger guys have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we are 100% confident of their abilities.
We hope to gather a lot of momentum from this series to carry into the World Cup, though I am not a great supporter of the theory that playing conditions in India and the Caribbean Islands are pretty similar. In fact, I don't think there can be too many comparisons between the two.
That said, beating India in the group stage would be a major step in our progress to the Super Eight stage, so this series offers the team a good opportunity to find form going into the World Cup. Cricket's showpiece event is not the best place to find your form and it would be perfect if we had a series win under our belts so that the guys would be on autopilot in the Caribbean.
Sri Lanka have evolved a great deal as a team during the past year, though success is a moving target and evolution is the only way forward. The Indian team, too, is going through an evolution of sorts, with the induction of a fair amount of fresh talent.
The face of the last India-Sri Lanka series, of course, was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and he certainly arrived on the scene all guns blazing! Incidentally, I am supposed to have formulated a strategy to counter Dhoni. If so, I would love to hear of it. As far as he is concerned, I don't think anything has changed --- barring the expectations.
Both these teams are now looking to grow, and Eden Gardens is the perfect venue for a fair fight. The pitch looks good, and with overcast conditions forecast for match day, the dew factor will probably not play a big role.