Experts put Srilanka as favorites in tri-series

Published: Saturday, August 12, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:The panelists taking part in a symposium organised here today by Ten Sports along with the Press Club of India put Sri Lanka as the favorites in the upcoming tri-series tournament between India, Sri Lanka and South Africa for the Unitech Cup.

Former cricketers Sanjay Manjrekar who compered the programme, Javagal Srinath, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and senior journalist Ayaz Menon took part in the symposium as a part of Ten Sports build up to the series which will be held from August 14-29 in Sri Lanka.

The panelists felt that with eight months left for the World Cup, it was time the team think tank cut down on the experimentation and decide on the nucleus of the squad required for the World Cup.

The former leg spinner Sivaramakrishnan felt that it was important to start the new season on a winning note and also felt that it was important that the wickets in Sri Lanka would be the same as those of the West Indies and that would give us more practice on slow and low wickets.

Javagal Srinath said that this was a very important series for India which I would be watching with keen interest. India has not performed well abroad and Chappell so far has not given the results when it came to overseas tourneys. Therefore in a way I think this would be like a second coming for this team if they win in Sri Lanka, he added.

The former Indian spearhead said that this has been the bane of Indian cricket so far, and since 1996 I have not seen India win consistently abroad. It looked like things would change after the 2003 World Cup, but again we could not maintain the consistency and this would be the main challenge for Chappell and the team, he added.

Turning their attention to the most sought after topic in Indian cricket at the moment, the fitness of Sachin Tendulkar and his showing in Sri Lanka, Sanjay Manjrekar asked the three panelists whether fans would see a different Sachin or the same master blaster that we have been used to all these years. Srinath and Sivaramakrishnan both agreed that it was an important series for the Mumbai maestro.

Srinath, elaborating on his point, said that it would be a crucial series for Tendulkar. ''He is a very important member of the squad and walks into the playing 11. I think he can come out and bat the way he does and then field inside the 30 yard circle, there is no problem for me.'' Speaking about Irfan Pathan, Srinath felt that his excess concentration on batting is affecting his bowling. He, however, is just 21 years old and though he has lost a bit of pace, but he can definitely come back, he added.

Sivaramakrishnan felt that there are certain flaws which have crept into his bowling. He started off with a beautiful side-on action, but now he has become more open chested. However, he is still young and with the contract system of the board now these bowlers can go back to the domestic circuit and trash out his problems and then come back rejuvenated into international cricket.

Sivaramakrishnan also said that more than Pathan, Ajit Agarkar would be India's strike bowler. I would select three pacers in Agarkar, Sreesanth and Pathan with Harbhajan as the lone spinner.

The fifth bowlers job would to taken care of by the likes of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj.

Srinath when asked to comment by Sanjay Manjrekar on the exclusion of Anil Kumble, said that though he feels the selectors have done a good job for this tri-series, I feel Kumble should have been a certainty in the team.

''He is raring to play the one day game and with his experience, he should be given a task of grooming the youngsters in the team.''

Speaking about the Sri Lankan team, all the panelists agreed that Muttiah Muralitharan would be the main threat. Sivaramakrishnan said that if the Indian batsmen could play him out and aim for an bowling analysis of 0-34 in his ten overs, then the team could even get more runs as the off-spinner is a strike bowlers and he would try different things to get a wicket. In doing this there would be chances of him bowling more loose balls which can be scored off, he added.

Siva also pointed out that Indians have struggled against off spinners and therefore the first 20 overs would be of crucial importance. ''If we can get of to a flyer than it would make our job easier otherwise down the order we would have only Dhoni who could take him on as the other bastmen would not be capable of doing so.'' Sivaramakrishnan also felt that not having Marvan Atapattu is a blessing in disguise as the team has gelled very well under Mahela Jayawardene and is playing their best cricket in the last four to five months.

Srinath also said that too much concentration on Murali would also be dangerous as they have a very potent pace bowling attack in Dilhara Fernando who is bowling better and better as the matches go and there is Lasith Malinga who has real pace. Also Mahroof has come on very well, he added.

On the third team in the fray, South Africa, Srinath felt the injuries to the top players is affecting them a lot and Shaun Pollock has hit his peak. He is bowling using his experience only, he added.

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