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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014
Battle of equals... this is it
Hindustan Times
April 01, 2011
First Published: 00:31 IST(1/4/2011)
Last Updated: 00:36 IST(1/4/2011)

After 48 matches, India and Sri Lanka are the last two standing. HT deconstructs the strengths and weaknesses of both.

India

Strengths
- A destructive opening pair; even good balls can be hit for fours, so don't bother about the bad ones. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are capable of making a telling difference in the first 15 overs when the Powerplay periods are in effect.

- The middle order is in good hands as well. Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh are proven performers who can shape the destiny of a game. All three have been among runs in this World Cup and with support from the other end, can be a handful for any opposition.

- Suresh Raina is a dangerous customer at number seven if the team gets into the slog overs with wickets in hand. He is an intelligent striker of the ball, who can pack a mean punch in his shots. Handy as he mixes caution with aggression.

- Zaheer Khan's presence lends the otherwise mediocre attack a penetrative edge. Skillful and experienced, he is equally effective with the new and old ball. With a bagful of variations and probing mind, he is the key to India's hopes with the ball.

- The spin department isn't bad. Harbhajan Singh hasn't been among wickets but he has done a good containing job and who knows, he could be a match away from getting back to his wicket-taking ways. The versatile R Ashwin and the ever-improving left-armers of Yuvraj add solidity to the spin wing.

- The presence of Raina, Kohli and Yuvraj makes India a good fielding unit inside the circle. The three can effect useful interceptions which often make the difference between a boundary and single.

Weaknesses
- The otherwise enviable batting line-up has shown a tendency to crumble under pressure and lose wickets in a heap in the closing overs. This has happened in almost every occasion when they have batted first. Runs have not come thick and fast in that period for this reason.

- MS Dhoni occupies a vital position in the middle order and the lack of runs from his bat is a concern. He has publicly accepted this, which reduces the pressure on him to an extent, but as long as he doesn't play a significant knock, doubts will remain. No team wants to have a non-performing captain in a Cup final.

- The pace attack is too dependent on Zaheer. Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra did well against Pakistan in the semifinal, but are yet to show the kind of consistency that would make them reliable back-up options. Harbhajan's inability to take wickets is a worry too.

- Despite the presence of Raina, Kohli and Yuvraj, fielding is an area of concern. Nehra and Munaf can leak crucial runs along the ropes.

Sri Lanka

Strengths
- The opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga has been highly successful. The left-right combination is equally adept at hitting boundaries and stealing singles. They are busy from the word go and keep the rivals on their toes.

- Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene are the most prolific No. 3 and 4 batsmen in the world, who can treat pace and spin with equal disdain. On their day, they can murder any attack.

- The variety in bowling is a huge factor. Lasith Malinga is a huge threat with his sling-arm out-swingers and dipping yorkers. The spin department comprising Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath can take on any team in the world with Tillakaratne Dilshan as a reliable part-time option.

Weaknesses
- Batting beyond No. 4 can be a suspect area, which is yet to be seriously tested in this World Cup. If they lose early wickets and a couple more in the middle overs, the rest can be put under pressure.

- There is no back-up fast bowling option after Malinga. If the pitch doesn't assist spin, they may be found wanting in this department.


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