Their bowling attack is weakened due to injuries, their batsmen have struggled, there’s been talk of a communication gap between players, their captainwasn’t even aware the team stood a chance of qualifying going into their final league game and they are up against opponents who’ve peaked impressively.
There is much at stake for India in what might or might not be their last match of the trip. A shot at a place in the finals aside, there’ll be those in the team who’ll be under pressure to keep their spots in the ODI side as the selectors meet to pick the squad for the Asia Cup on Wednesday. The misery of the India teams of the 90s when touring overseas has returned to haunt this side and Tuesday’s contest is as much an opportunity to restore some pride, to slightly repair a damaged reputation – something that, if achieved, will mark a significant rise from a spate of on-field problems that has let the team down.
A bonus-point win is only the first step – India’s fate will then hinge on the result of Sri Lanka’s game against Australia on March 2 – but it will be a sign of determination to fight back, a strong urge to reach the finals and give some back to a team that’s been responsible for the misery inflicted on them over the last two months.
Sri Lanka are well-equipped to thwart any such turnaround after three straight wins, the third a hard-fought one against Australia in Hobart, the venue for Tuesday’s game. Both Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene have scored at the top, their young middle order has been productive, and the bowling largely consistent and free of injury. A defeat is a possibility, a cataclysmic fall that will concede a bonus point a very distant one.
India: LLLTW (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WWWTL
In the spotlight
Another failure could land Virender Sehwag in a tricky situation with the selectors ahead of the Asia Cup. Sehwag has scores of 23, 10, 20, 0 and 5 and, in an urgent need of recovery, his own extravagance often cuts short his stay at the crease.
Kumar Sangakkara has delighted in this series but only in parts, walking in, scoring a fluent, attractive cameo and then heading back. He has been consistent in his short bursts of strokemaking, but has failed to push on. His scores read 26, 22, 31, 30, 8 and 22.
Zaheer Khan has a calf injury and Vinay Kumar has hurt his hamstring. Irfan Pathan should be fit but it remains to be seen if he’s affected by the collision he had with Suresh Raina in the previous game. They were beaten soundly by Australia but India may be forced to go in with the same line-up.
India (possible): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Umesh Yadav.
After their win in Hobart against the hosts, Sri Lanka could be tempted to go in with the same team.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath.
Stats and trivia
- Kumar Sangakkara joins Muttiah Muralitharan with his 63rd ODI against India – the third-highest for a Sri Lanka player against India. Sanath Jayasuriya has played 89 games against India, and Mahela Jayawardene 73.
- No India batsman has managed a century in this tournament so far. Since 2001, this is only the second ODI tournament where India have played at least seven matches and not managed a century. The previous series was the bilateral Natwest series in England, in 2007, which the visitors lost 3-4.
“That would be saying I am very optimistic, seeing that we have not consistently done well with the bat – it means whatever the opposition scores we will have to score in 40 overs, which will be a very difficult task. But I am happy that at least there is a chance, subject to some other game, and I would love to take it.”
MS Dhoni concedes winning with a bonus point is a stiff ask