Thatscricket - News - India faces uphill task in final against Sri Lanka

Published: Monday, August 6, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo: Despite the stunning comeback into the triangular One-day series here, the big question facing India is whether it can break its losing streak in the last four final appearances when it takes on Sri Lanka on Sunday.India booked its place in the final from the brink of elimination. Having won three pressure games, India look to be better placed than ever to put a stop to its habit of faltering at the last hurdle.India has lost the last four finals it has played in - the slide starting with the defeat against New Zealand in the ICC knock-out tournament in October last year - but Saurav Ganguly and his men are determined to stop the trend here.The confidence stems from the way they have played in the last three matches and also from the brilliant individual performances of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, who almost single-handedly won the last two games for India.Sehwag and Yuvraj must be giving headaches to the Sri Lankan camp but India would need contributions from all the players in order to win the Coca-Cola Cup on Sunday, considering the hosts would be all charged up to avenge its two successive losses to India in the league phase.Sri Lanka had started as favourites to win the tournament and it had proved its top billing by winning its first three matches, including one against India, with relative ease. But it lost its next two matches to India comprehensively. The 2-1 advantage in the series does give psychological edge to the Indians but they must be wary of the Sri Lankans who are capable of bouncing back especially since it is playing on its home soil.After their sterling performances, Sehwag and Yuvraj will feature prominently in the Indian scheme of things. Sehwag, whose 69-ball 100 against New Zealand in the last league encounter was the sixth fastest century in One-day history, will most probably open the innings again with Ganguly who is slowly coming back to play his natural innings.In fact, a lot will depend on the opening wicket partnership. India had lost early wickets in each of its league matches except the last one against New Zealand where Sehwag and Ganguly put up a 143-run stand.The opening pair would once again be required to put up a good total if it is not in the hurricane manner in which it was compiled against New Zealand.Rahul Dravid has been the most consistent of Indian batsmen in this series and he can be expected to build on the solid foundation. The Indian vice-captain has looked as solid as ever and his performance will be vital for the team's fortunes on Sunday.As will be that of Yuvraj Singh who is beaming with confidence after his career-best unbeaten knock of 98 against Sri Lanka. The bowlers would be on the back foot against him and the Punjab youngster must capitalise on the situation. He has shown his tremendous potential on numerous ocassions but has gone down while trying to be too flashy. It is time Yuvraj realises that he needs to play more responsible knocks like the one against Sri Lanka. V V S Laxman is another batsman who can turn around the match for his team. The stylish right-hander from Hyderabad has had a mixed series with his unbeaten match-winning 87 against Sri Lanka standing out for his sheer brilliance.Laxman has been undone on many an occassion due to his habit of playing away from his body and he needs to restrain such tendencies. Another Punjab youngster Reetinder Singh Sodhi has also shown a lot of promise especially under pressure situations. Coming at number six, he doesn't get much opportunity but he has been chipping in with quick twenties and thirties. Hemang Badani has struggled in this tournament though he looked good in his 35-ball unbeaten 37 in the last match. The team has reposed a lot of faith in him and Badani would be looking to start from where he left in his previous knock.The Indian batting line-up is suddenly looking to have a lot of depth after the three victories but it will be put to the real test only on Sunday. The Indian bowling has been pretty consistent and with the exception of Thursday's match against New Zealand, the bowlers have done their job admirably well. Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan have developed into a very potent force and a lot will depend on their performance on Sunday. Harbhajan singh has also been among wickets and his role in the middle overs has been crucial for India's fortunes. The part-timers like Ganguly, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Badani have also done a fine job and can be expected to come up with a similar good performance on Sunday. Sri Lanka had inflicted One-day cricket's worst-ever defeat on India in Sharjah in the two teams' previous meeting in a final. And the hosts are raring for a similar result this in the wake of their two successive losses.Lanka has a very balanced side with Sanath Jayasuriya leading an explosive batting line-up that includes the likes of Romesh Kaluwitharana, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold.All of them have been in fine form in this tournament - with Jayawardene too getting runs in the previous two matches - and are capable of match-winning innings. They have come out successful from very sticky situations, amply exemplified in their five-wicket win over New Zealand after reeling at 27 for four at one stage.With a partisan home crowd expected to fully occupy the Premadasa Stadium on a Sunday, Sri Lanka would make things extremely difficult for the Indians.Muthiah Muralitharan, who claimed a world record seven for 30 in that Sharjah final, would once again be at the helm of Sri Lankan bowling to haunt the Indians. He will have able company in Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and Kumar Dharmasena who have been troubling the opposition batsman a lot in this series. Both teams will announce their final eleven on Sunday.PTI


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