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Published: Monday, August 20, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Former Indian captains praise Ganguly
India's tour of Sri Lanka
Colombo: Rookie batsman Michael Vandort is being touted as Sri Lanka's possible saviour as a buoyant India prepares for a final assault to clinch the Test series.The 21-year-old left-hander, who took a century off the tourists in a warm-up match earlier this month, is set to make his international debut in the third and decisive Test starting here on Wednesday.Vandort is likely to replace all-rounder Suresh Perera as Sri Lanka attempts to bolster its batting, which let the hosts down during the seven-wicket defeat in the second Test at Kandy on Saturday.Perera not only failed to deliver with bat and ball in the first two Tests, but was also reported by West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor for a suspect bowling action.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The local media was rife with speculation that skipper Sanath Jayasuriya was unhappy with coach Dav Whatmore's insistence on playing Perera as a fifth bowler at the expense of a batsman.Jayasuriya gave Perera just 12 overs in the first Test, which Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets, and five in the second.The highly-rated Vandort, an opening batsman, is expected to take one of the three top spots in the order, pushing either Marvan Atapattu or Kumar Sangakkara down to number six.Sri Lanka has good reason to worry about the upcoming battle at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC).Barely five months ago, the series against England followed the same pattern as the current one, with Sri Lanka winning the first Test at Galle before losing the second at Kandy.Sri Lanka then lost the decider at the SSC, which boasts of having the best wicket in the country, with plenty of bounce for bowlers willing to bend their backs, as well as being conducive to strokeplay."One wrong move and we could end up with the same result," Jayasuriya said. "India seems to have made it a habit of coming from behind to take its rivals by surprise."The Sri Lankan captain was referring to the magnificent fight back by Saurav Ganguly's men against world champions Australia at home in March, when they fought back from a three-day defeat in the first Test and a 274-run follow-on margin in the second to win the series 2-1."It was one of our best wins," said Ganguly, who himself struck form with a match-winning 98 not out at Kandy, his first substantial knock in 14 innings."The win showed we have the depth to deliver even without some of our best players. I could not have asked for more going into the final Test."If the thick coating of grass on the SSC wicket is not removed over the next two days, India will field the same attack of three seamers, Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan and Harvinder Singh, backed up by a lone spinner, Harbhajan Singh.It will be more likely that another spinner, left-armer Rahul Sanghvi or leg spinner Sairaj Bahutule, replaces Harvinder if the grass is removed off the track."Sri Lanka has chinks in its batting and we must exploit that," Ganguly said. "Their batsmen to collapse under a bit of pressure."It was also at the SSC in 1993 that India defeated Sri Lanka to win its last series away from home. Ganguly is hoping the eight-year drought since then will also end here.