Not even a year has lapsed since India and Sri Lanka squared off in the World Cup final. The world champions and runners-up will face-off again when the CB Series - the annual tri-series involving Australia - gets underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from Sunday. Michael Clarke and Co not only enjoy home advantage in the series, which includes 12 league games, but are also the in-form team.
Despite the hiccup in the second T20 against India on Friday at the same venue, the hosts have enjoyed a decent run over the last couple of months. On the other hand, their opponents have been in the line of fire, both on and off the field.Sri Lanka, who handed over the team's reins to Tillakaratne Dilshan, took it away from the attacking opening batsman after the South Africa tour. They also also got rid of coach, Geoff Marsh, who helped the team earn their maiden Test win in the Rainbow Nation. More than facing two tough opponents, the biggest challenge for the new coach-captain combination of Graham Ford and Mahela Jayawardene will be to restore order in a team hampered by infighting.
India's case is no different. Their atrocious run in Tests away from home only seems to have widened the differences between the skipper and his deputy. However, MS Dhoni and his boys would be hoping that Friday's success will turn the tide in their favour. After being whitewashed in the Tests, India failed to win any of the five ODIs, returning winless from a gruelling tour of England not so long ago.
As India get set to defend their CB Series title (the last one was held four years ago and it was disbanded for three years), they will hold their heads high.
"The boys who have come as one-day specialists are young. When the fielding is good, the intensity picks up. There's a positive vibe around, atmosphere is different," said Suresh Raina, one of the limited-overs specialists, who has replaced the ageing stars for the second leg of the tour. "That's what we saw yesterday. Hopefully, we will continue in the same vein."
For India to start on a winning note, mere agility on the field will not be enough. The key is for the batsmen, who have been below par all through, to come good. If Sachin Tendulkar, who scored back-to-back centuries in the best-of-three finals four years ago, carries his CB Series form into Sunday's game, he will, apart from achieving a long overdue personal milestone, set the tone for his team for the next five weeks.