Johannesburg: After the wake-up call it got against Kenya, India will be keen to make amends in its second World Cup Super Six game against Sri Lanka on Monday and grab a win which will assure it of a semi-final berth.India has enjoyed a distinct edge over its sub-continental rivals in the recent matches, having defeated Sri Lanka in all the games in the NatWest triangular series in England last year and also dominated in the rain-abandoned finals of the Champions Trophy in Colombo.The last time the two teams met in a World Cup, India, helped by centuries from Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly, had bludgeoned Sri Lanka by 157 runs. A victory in Monday's game will assure a semi-final berth for India which is placed second in the Super Six table with 12 points. For Sri Lanka, which received a 96-run drubbing at the hands of leaders Australia, it is a must win situation for all practical purposes.
Sri Lanka's prospects have been severely affected by the injury to its match-winning skipper Sanath Jayasuriya who is a doubtful starter for Monday's game.Jayasuriya is still to recover fully from the blows he got from a Brett Lee delivery during their match on Friday which left him with a broken thumb and a heavily bruised forearm.Jayasuriya himself was devastated at the way things have unfolded. "I would love to play against India but it all depends on my fitness," he said. "We know the game against India is vital.
We have had some very good matches against it and I hope everything falls into its place for us on Monday," he said.If Jayasuriya is forced to sit out, his place will most probably be taken by Avishka Gunawardena but the team knows any replacement for Jayasuriya can only be a patch on the master blaster.India has no worries on the injury count but the form of few of the players has been troubling the team think-tank. Captain Saurav Ganguly minced no words after his team's face-saving win against Kenya on Friday saying the players will have to pull up their socks if they are to maintain their winning run.Ganguly, who stroked an unbeaten century on Friday to be among runs again, was also critical of the show in the field.
"The fielding was not good at all. The intensity wasn't there. We gave a lot of twos and boundaries. And then there were dropped catches. Fielding was much below par," he said. "If Mohammed Kaif who is among the best in the team drops a catch, if Dinesh Mongia who is as good as anybody drops a catch, then we do not have much to say. They know it themselves what they have done. They were not the hardest of chances and they went to the best of fielders," the Indianskipper said. India dropped no less than four catches in the field, including two against the top-scorer Kenedy Obuya. "We will have to improve and set the record straight before Monday's game," Ganguly said.
However, the one positive that India drew from the match was the fact that it did not lose its way despite early dismissals of three of its top order batsmen. Dashing opener Virender Sehwag has had an unimpressive show so far and on Monday is his chance to get a start and build on it patiently. Sachin Tendulkar failed against Kenya but the awesome form he has shown in the tournament promises he will be again at his best. Tendulkar's face-off with champion spinner Muthiah Muralitharan and leading wicket-taker Chaminda Vaas has already generated a lot of interest and the match offers a lip-smacking opportunity to the trio to display their class and win their respective duels.
Tendulkar will be face to face with Muralitharan after a gap of three years and he will want to make the meeting a memorable one but so will the spin wizard. Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore was not too bothered by reputations and said his team had full measure of the Indian big wigs. "India is a very good side but it is not Australia. It has a couple of incredible match-winners but we have played it many times and know its strengths and weaknesses," he said. "It might be on the top of its game right now but it can be beaten. We have done it before and we can do it again," Whatmore said. The confidence of Whatmore stems from the team's ability to stage a comeback after reverses.
1996 champions Sri Lanka was upset by Kenya in its league match but bounced back to defeat the West Indies and tied the rain-hit match against South Africa to squeeze in to the Super Sixes.An equally unpredictable India, which hammered 100 runs in 10 overs against Pakistan but struggled to put up 25 in its next match against Kenya, will have to be up on its guard throughout to ensure it maintain its winning run in the premier event.
The teams (from): India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh,Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Dinesh Mongia, Parthiv Patel, Sanjay Bangar, Ajit Agarkar, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif.
Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Marvan Atapattu,Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva,Russel Arnold, Jehan Mubarak, Avishka Gunawardena, Hashan Tillekeratne, Muthiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Prabath Nissanka, Charitha Buddhika.
Umpires:David Shepherd (England), Simon Taufel (Australia)
TV umpire:Daryl Harper (Australia)
Match referee:Clive Lloyd (West Indies). PTI