Sri Lanka go into its crucial do-or-die game against India with a few concerns having lost their opening match versus South Africa.
Firstly, it has its stand-in captain Upul Tharanga suspended for the remaining ICC Champions Trophy group stage matches for a serious over-rate offence and, then, it also has ongoing concerns about the fitness of Angelo Mathews.
If Angelo, Sri Lanka’s best batsman and captain, is deemed unavailable for this vital clash, it could severely hamper the team’s chances of winning against India.
Even if Angelo is considered fit, the threat of slow over-rate will be a major concern. Having Tharanga suspended is a huge waste. With quite an experienced and senior bowling attacked led by Lasith Malinga, a team constituting two spinners, it is unacceptable that Sri Lanka was over by 39 minutes.
Even though the captain is penalised more for such offences, it should be the responsibility of senior bowlers to push themselves to properly address and rectify the situation. The wicketkeeper and fielders also have to play their part with sustained urgency.
Sri Lanka will take some heart with the effort of its fast bowlers, especially the performance of Nuwan Pradeep who was threatening throughout his quota of overs against South Africa.
However, the bowlers’ inability to strike in the first 10 overs in terms of wickets will be a concern when faced with such a strong batting line-up like India. There might be a strong case where it opts to bring in all-rounder Thisara Perera, who along with all-rounder Seekuge Prasanna, will give them more variety and more options.
India, however, will come into the match as favourites with sky-high confidence with an almost flawless display against Pakistan.
From an India perspective, the fact that Rohit Sharma and Shikar Dhawan managed to form a strong opening partnership once again was very encouraging for the defending champions given the strength of their batting combination has been vital in their past tournament successes.
The rest of their batsmen, led by Virat Kohli, also look in serene form and India’s batting has its normal juggernaut-feel.
India’s bowling has been a revelation in recent years in the sense that, while earlier its strength laid in the spinners it had in its ranks, right now it also has a varied and highly effective pace attack.
The Oval is a happy hunting ground for both teams and the surface on the day might make India think about bring Ravi Ashwin back into the fold.
However, it will be a pleasing selection issue to have for captain Kohli as the choices in front of him will in no way dilute their strengths. He has lots of good options.
Sri Lanka will have to regroup and rethink its make-up and strategy, and take heart from the few positives from their outing against South Africa, in particular a strong fielding effort, smart execution of bowling, and the flamboyance of Niroshan Dickwella.
It will be looking as a team to execute its basics as soundly as well as it can, hoping that when coupled with its individual skill and talent, this will suffice to beat India.
I would personally like this young Sri Lanka side to walk out at The Oval and play with the arrogance and abandon of youth. They should express their talent and play a really positive brand of cricket. If they are able to do this, then they have a chance of pulling off an upset, but it will not be easy an India team that so confidently overwhelmed Pakistan on Sunday.
This column was first published on www.icc.cricket.com
Published Date: Jun 07, 2017 17:38 PM | Updated Date: Jun 08, 2017 15:43 PM