The air in the subcontinent is tense with anticipation as old rivals India and Sri Lanka get set to slug it out for World Cup glory. Both teams must be buoyant coming off convincing wins in their semi match-ups, Sri Lanka edging out New Zealand by 5 wickets and India overpowering Pakistan by 29 runs.
But what do the history books say about these two sides in World Cups? India's victory rate is around 62%, with 38 wins and 26 losses while Sri Lanka is just a considerably lower at 31 wins from 65 matches at a success rate of 44 per cent . These two teams are no strangers to each other on cricket's greatest stages, having met as many as 7 times in the big event. India however, need to be wary of their history against this side as they have lost four times and won against them just twice in the tournament.
The first time, India met Sri Lanka in a World Cup match was in the 1979 edition at Manchester. In that encounter, Sri Lanka managed to put on a moderately respectable total of 238/5 in 60 overs with a top score of 67 from Sunil Wettymuni and substantial help from Roy Dias (50) and Duleep Mendis (64). In reply India were 191 all out, with all of the top order getting starts but perishing by the wayside, with Dilip Vengsakar being the highest scorer for his side at 36, while Lankan bowlers Tony Opatha and Somachandra De Silva picked up 3 wickets a piece. With that win, Sri Lanka had drawn first blood.
The two sides then again crossed paths in the 1996 World Cup, and that too two twice. In the first encounter which was during the group stages, Sachin Tendulkar guided India to a formidable 271/3 in 50 overs with a top-score of 137 runs. But the Lankan response was very strong, with Jayasuriya blasting 79 and all off the middle order coming to the fore to overhaul the total with 6 wickets and 8 balls to spare.
Then when the two sides met in the infamous semi-final of the tournament, Sri Lanka were 0/2 in the firt over, when Aravinda de Silva pummeled away a 66 off 47 balls to lead a recovery which saw the side make a competitive 251. In reply, India were coasting but with the departure of Tendulkar at 98/1, collapsed to 120/8 when Sri Lanka were awarded the match due to an unruly crowd that wouldn't allow the match to proceed.
India finally won its first World Cup match against the Lankans in a crucial encounter at Taunton in 1999, when Sourav Ganguly, riding on the luck of several dropped catches and some atrocious bowling, made a gigantic 183 with some phenomenal support from Rahul Dravid, who notched up a 145 runs of his own, as India compiled an imposing total of 373/6 in 50 overs. In reply, the Lankans could only manage to put on 216 all out with a desperate 56 from Aravinda De Silva topping his side's scores, India thus winning by 157 runs.
India repeated that emphatic performance in 2003 against Lanka at the Johannesburg when 97 from Sachin Tendulkar and 66 from Virender Sehwag along with a supportive 48 from Ganguly, took India to a challenging 292. Then India shot out a hapless Lanka for 109 with Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra ensnaring four wickets a piece, thus winning the match for India by a mammoth 183 runs.
But four years later, Sri Lanka got its revenge at Port of Spain when the islanders put on a competitive 254/6 courtesy good knocks from Upul Tharanga (64), Chamara Silva (59) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (38), before blowing away India for 185. Sehwag (48) and captain Dravid (60) were the only two batsman to score knocks of some note as Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan picked up 3/41.
India are raring to go to better their World Cup record against this side when the two teams meet at Wankhede. As myriad fans are hoping they do in this all-important tournament capper...