Most cricket watchers would have marked down the date for the 28th August final between India and Sri Lanka with keen interest. This is not because they are still enthused by the prospect of an India-Sri Lanka match or
a final, but simply because there is no more cricket scheduled between the two countries till the 2011 World Cup.
True this match is a final, but it is a not-especially-significant-final of a not-especially-significant-tournament. The only positives that both teams will look for from this will be
the obvious morale boost that any tournament victory brings and a continuing assess
ment of what each one's best sides are for the 2011 World Cup.
India played with a four-man seam attack in their last league match, and reaped good results from the strategy, and so might go in with the same combination. While the bowlers did do a good job for India in the last match, what they cannot overlook is that it was essentially Virender Sehwag who gave them victory. He was the one who rose above the pitch and the conditions and gave
India a total they could defend. If his innings is taken out of consideration, then the Ind
ian bowlers didn't do much better than their New Zealand counterparts - which could be the direct result of helpful conditions, and not so much an indication of the bowlers being unplayable.
If India don't go in with four pacers then in all likelihood Munaf Patel will make way for Pragyan Ojha, but India's main problem so far has been their batting rather than their bowling. Virender Sehwag has scored a century and the infamous 99 not out, and has 240 runs, but no other batsman has even one third of the runs Sehwag has. MS Dhoni slots in next with a paltry 73 runs, which shows just how shambolic the rest of India's batting has been. Yuvraj Singh had one innings of some substace, while Dhoni lent Sehwag good support in the last league match, but apart from those two scores, no other batsman has even crossed 25 runs in an innings.
One change India could consider is dropping Ravindra Jadeja and bringing in R Ashwin. Jadeja's batting has been nothing to write home about, and he has gone for runs at 5.36 an over - which is equivalent to 7.00 anywhere in the subcontinent apart from Dambulla - an
d not taken too many wickets either. While his all-round credentials might be better than Ashwin, his performances are far from it. From Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the team think-tank should give Kohli a look-in, since both have not done too much with the bat, but Kohli has had much more solid performances in the past.
Sri Lanka don't have that many selection headaches, with their side having a mostly settled look. Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan have all scored more than 100 runs in the series, and looked far more solid than the Indian top-order without Sehwag has. Chamara Silva has batted only once, but looked calm and assured during his 41 not out, and could make it to the final eleven.
The bowling has been led by Malinga, who has been hostile and extremely difficult to get away. The others have
supported him well, with Angelo Mathews too chipping in with useful overs and wickets. Thisara Perera should be in the final eleven after his five-wicket haul, which gives Sri Lanka two useful all-rounders in him and Mathews.
The outcome of the match may well be decided by who wins the battle between Malinga and Sehwag. If Sehwag falls early, Sri Lanka will consider themselves strong favourites, while if he stays for a length of time, not only will India's score move along briskly, the dressing room will be a lot more positive. And of course, there will be the small matter of keeping Sehwag away from Randiv if he gets out early, because if he is in when Randiv comes on, there are abound to be fireworks.
Sri Lanka (From): Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara(w/c), Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suraj Randiv, Lasith Malinga, Thissara Perera, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera
India (From): Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Rohit Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Saurabh Tiwary