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Injury-hit India face uphill task

With Sehwag out, Dhoni has been forced to re-think the composition of his team earlier in the five-match series than he would have liked, reports Anand Vasu.Spl: Mission Sri Lanka

cricket Updated: Aug 20, 2008 01:14 IST
Anand Vasu

INDIA HAD barely any time to pick themselves up from Monday's loss in the first ODI before they try to turn the tables in the second game. But Tuesday, which was used by both teams to have optional net practice, was not wasted. As you would expect after a loss, almost the whole team turned up at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium. But even as they sweated it out in the heat, as most of the Sri Lankans chose to take a break, the visitors were left with more questions than answers.

Through injuries, first to Sachin Tendulkar and then to Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been forced to re-think the composition of his team earlier in the five-match series than he would have liked.

The first option Dhoni has is to do nothing and go into the second match with the same set of personnel who lost the first game by eight wickets. The second, which will still keep the five-bowler set up going is to make a strategic shift towards pace and bring in swing and seam specialist Praveen Kumar in place of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.

However, given how poorly India's batsmen fared against the disciplined seam bowling of Nowan Kulasekara and the still-mysterious spin of Ajantha Mendis, Dhoni will be seriously tempted to strengthen the batting and leave out a bowler.

An aggressive captain by nature, Dhoni has preferred to have the additional bowling option at his disposal, but the situation certainly warrants including an extra batsman. With India sticking to its 15-man squad and not replacing Sehwag, the decision to change the composition to seven batsmen and four bowlers will result in an international debut for Subramanium Badrinath.

Virat Kohli, although not especially impressive on debut, certainly deserves to be given another chance to prove his worth, and the squad does not have any other batsmen who have opened in any serious form of the game. Irfan Pathan has done the job on occasion, and even batted No. 3, but pushing him up the order won't really solve India's problem, as it will leave the inexperienced youngsters having to face Mendis and Muralitharan in the middle overs.

"It is important to learn from your mistakes because mistakes do happen. Everyone makes mistakes," Dhoni said after his team's loss in the first game. "So long as you learn from them, your graph and the team's graph goes upwards."

India need to learn from their mistakes swiftly and plug the leaks for Sri Lanka could easily run away with the series otherwise.

Sri Lanka's batsmen were barely tested in the first game, chasing a sub-150 target, but even in cantering to their easy win, Mahela Jayawardene and Chamara Kapugedara put in the hard work required to eliminate risk and accumulate runs in conditions that gave the bowlers assistance.

"I'm happy with the start we have got, but it's just a start," said Jayawardene. "We have got four more games yet. We have to make sure we concentrate very well and there are areas which we can pinpoint and work hard on pimproving. It's not just about this series, for us to improve as a group, we need to keep working hard."

For India, all long-term thoughts of improvement are on hold. The task at hand is to win and keep the series alive.