Sunday, December 20, 2009

Key players ruled out as teams start afresh

The build-up to this game has been dominated by the two-match ban handed down to MS Dhoni for India's appallingly slow over-rate in Nagpur. With Dhoni out of the fray, Sri Lanka's own woes have been obscured. Angelo Mathews, who clinched victory in Nagpur, is the latest to join the incapacitated list, with Thissara Perera flying in to take his place, and it's still uncertain whether Lasith Malinga will be risked after missing the first two games. The missing-in-action theme has affected India too, though Yuvraj Singh is expected to be fit to shore up a middle order that will sorely miss Dhoni's remarkable consistency.

The bigger concern for India is the fielding, or lack of it. The number of catches dropped has gone into double-figures, and the ground-fielding was equally dismal in the last game. Both seniors and juniors have been equally culpable, and Mike Young would have watched with some horror from the dressing room as even the basics were ignored.

Sri Lanka haven't been exceptional in the field either, but they do have two batsmen, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, in prime form. There was also a fine debut for Suraj Randiv, and a moderately successful return to the limelight for Ajantha Mendis, whose dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar set India back in Nagpur. India's bowling woes are more focussed on the opening overs, where not one man has been able to put the slightest pressure on Upul Tharanga or Dilshan. Old-ball mastery won them the game in Rajkot, but raggedness with the new one left them with too much to do in the second match.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

India - LWLLL
Sri Lanka - WLLLW

Watch out for...

Yuvraj Singh: Ever since he established himself as one of the bulwarks of India's one-day batting, rarely has a series gone by without Yuvraj playing at least one defining innings. An injured finger and flu kept him out of the opening two games, but if his Twenty20 blitz in Mohali was any guide, he certainly isn't lacking form. Against an attack missing Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mathews, his nonchalant heaves over midwicket could well prove decisive.

Spinners: The slow blowers have traditionally enjoyed Cuttack. When India beat West Indies in the run-up to the last World Cup, India's contingent took six wickets in a low-scoring encounter, and last year it was Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj that were the difference in a free-scoring match with England.

Team news

Dinesh Karthik will take Dhoni's place, while Virat Kohli, despite a sprightly 54 in the last game, will have to make way if Yuvraj recovers fully. There could also be a rejigging of the pace attack, with Zaheer and Ashish Nehra both far more comfortable with the old ball. Praveen Kumar lacks the pace to hustle batsmen early on, especially in conditions where there's little or no movement, and that could see Ishant Sharma take his place.

India: (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh/Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.

Given their injury concerns, it's hard to predict Sri Lanka's line-up. But Mathews' absence does pave the way for Sanath Jayasuriya's return, especially in low and slow conditions where his left-arm spin could be a big factor. Suranga Lakmal didn't impress much on debut, and there could be a recall for Nuwan Kulasekara. The big plus though would be Malinga's return. In Fernando's absence, Sri Lanka have lacked a bowler who can hurry the batsmen.

Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamby, 6 Sanath Jayasuriya, 7 Suraj Randiv, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara/Suranga Lakmal, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Chanaka Welegedara, 11 Lasith Malinga.

Pitch and conditions

A bright, sunny day is predicted, and it won't be excessively cold at night either. Teams only one score in excess of 300, and the conditions could make for a tight game with moderate scores rather than Rajkot-like ones.

Stats and Trivia

Teams average 33.65 runs per wicket at the Barabati Stadium, the sixth-highest for grounds in India that have hosted more than ten ODIs.

However, the scoring rate in Cuttack is among the lowest in the country with 4.72 per over.


"There is no extra pressure as a captain with everybody contributing for the team."
Virender Sehwag isn't losing any sleep over his new role for the next two games.

"We made a lot of mistakes on the field and picked up more injuries but still gave the opposition a hard run."
Kumar Sangakkara applauds his troops for rising above the mess.

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