Sri Lanka-India clash in tri-series final
With all due respect to Bangladesh, the teams with the more
commanding records were always expected to meet in the final. After
going at each other for the past two months, Sri Lanka and India clash
at the Shere Bangla National Cricket Stadium on Wednesday, and if recent
encounters are any clue, India are the favourites.
That’s not a tag they have ever been comfortable with. Finals of
multi-team tournaments have long been India’s dreaded bogie, but against
Sri Lanka there will at least be the comfort of familiarity - they have
played each other 22 times in the last 19 months, with India winning 13
and losing seven times.
Since M.S. Dhoni took over the leadership India have reached four
finals and won two. Those two losses, against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in
the summer of 2008, left a sour taste and India will be keen to impose
On the other hand, Kumar Sangakkara has only won one ODI series since
he became captain in early 2009. Defeats to India in the home tri-series
and the away tour must rankle, and his leadership has come under heavy
fire of late.
A look back at the league phase, which ended on Monday with India
comfortably handing Bangladesh their fourth loss in a row, indicates
that neither they nor Sri Lanka had a tough time reaching this point.
Both batting line-ups are in form, the fielding has improved
significantly from when they played each other in December, but it is
the bowling which is still a concern.
No frontline fast bowler from either side has averaged less than 5.38
runs an over or 31.20 per wicket, and the most successful bowler overall
has been the allrounder Thissara Perera, whose five wickets have come at
18.20 and 4.33 an over.
Inaccurate bowling at the start and during the death overs hampered
both India and Sri Lanka in the limited-overs series before the New
Year. India’s fast bowlers were lukewarm in their first two games of
this series, failing to defend a total of 279 against Sri Lanka and
allowing Bangladesh to post 296 after that.
The rookie Sudeep Tyagi has impressed in two games but is not a
certainty for the final, Sreesanth has been wayward and expensive, and
most of the responsibility has been shouldered by Zaheer Khan and Ashish
Nehra. Both have had more off days than good ones.
The situation is even more worrying for Sri Lanka. Apart from Chanaka
Welegedara’s five-wicket haul in the first game against India, no pace
bowler has been impressive, and the pick of the attack has been the
young offspinner, Suraj Randiv. Their two most experienced bowlers,
Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara, have been poor and Suranga Lakmal
bowls all over the place. Too much pressure has been put on Randiv and
Perera, and neither can be expected to carry Sri Lanka’s attack.
After Sri Lanka’s defeat on Sunday, Sangakkara admitted that the
result had robbed them of some momentum going into the final.
The mantra for this series has been simple - field first. With that
in mind, the bowling will have to be extremely proficient.