| Srinath: Expected late
Colombo, Sept. 28: There’s a new spring in their steps, a new gleam in their eyes, a new spirit in their hearts and they are not afraid to scale new heights in their quest for success.
For the present, Sourav Ganguly and Co. are raring to beard the Lankan lions in their own den on Sunday. The big match temperament will also come into effect and Team India has rarely buckled in such situations. The semi-final versus South Africa can only be a case in point.
“It’s just another game for us. We have played well so far. We just need to keep the momentum going,” said the Indian skipper.
Nairobi and the loss in the final of the tri-series here last year are things of the past. “Talk about NatWest. Our recent record against Sri Lanka suggests we enjoy the upper hand,” Sourav said.
Meanwhile, runs or no runs, Sachin Tendulkar remains the focus of attention. His failure to come good in this tournament may have put him under some pressure but he still remains the biggest threat to Lanka. His mere presence is enough to leave the opposition shaking.
Clearly, the Little Master always enjoys such challenges and, as Vivian Richards said, “He always looks to dominate. If the opposition knows there’s no Sachin, they will start dictating terms.”
There is no denying the significance of Sachin’s presence even though another player in his mould, Virender Sehwag, may be present with some well-timed success. The Delhi lad has a special liking for this island nation and will be in strong contention for Man of the Tournament with another blazing show when it matters most.
The hosts will have to come up with something extraordinary to curb his natural instincts.
The Lankan brains trust, however, played down any suggestion of this. “There’s no special plans. We are not going to put ourselves under additional pressure by thinking about individuals,” was all that Aravinda de Silva would say.
The crisis man, Rahul Dravid, along with Yuvraj and Kaif have made the lower middle-order look so invincible that even a thought of any collapse seems out of place.
The fielding, ridiculed not so long back, is one of their strongest point now. The Indians are likely to go into the final with a three-pronged pace attack with Ajit Agarkar likely to come in for Anil Kumble. Once it was made known that a different strip, which hasn’t been used much in the tournament, will be made available on Saturday, it meant the spinners would be unable to derive the same amount of turn.
“It is a good batting track and there will be more bounce in the wicket,” Sourav said. The Mumbai allrounder’s inclusion will also mean that he could pitch in with the bat, if needed.
The availability of Jawagal Srinath — he is expected to reach here early tomorrow morning — will be a booster but how effective he will be in vastly different conditions remains to be seen.
Sourav is, however, banking on the early return of Jayasuriya since he knows his flourish will always give the Lankan innings momentum.
The hosts are planning to bring in Dilhara Fernando in place of Upul Chandana or Kumara Dharmasena. Tillekeratne Dilshan may also get a look in.
More than a battle of nerves, it will be a test of India’s new-found confidence against the Lankan home support.
India: Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Jawagal Srinath.
Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralidharan, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Upul Chandana/Kumara Dharmasena, Dilhara Fernando.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor, David Shepherd.Third Umpire: Daryl Harper. Match Referee: Clive Lloyd.
n India-Lanka stats: Page 14