| Rahul Dravid in Pune on Wednesday
Pune: Grim faces and despondent looks hardly suggested anything positive in their body language. The impromptu team meeting in the dressing room balcony lasted more than half-an-hour. As they dispersed one by one, slowly making their way to the team bus, they still seemed unsure about how best to execute their plans and responsibilities.
Tom Moody and Maravan Atapattu were joined by Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Sangakkara in a bid to find solutions to their growing problems on this tour. If Sachin Tendulkar took it all away in the first two games, one Mr Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s blistering unbeaten 183 has robbed them of their ideas.
However hard Atapattu might try to defend by saying, “it can’t happen on all days”, the fact remains that the Lankans are yet to overcome the Jaipur mauling psychologically. The more they think about it, the more their confidence seems to take a beating. As they struggle to forget it as a bad dream, the Indians will try hard to deliver the knockout punch en route to claiming the Videocon Cup.
The ruthlessness in the team’s approach that Greg Chappell has been talking about will be put to the test on Thursday. If the Indians can wrap up the series here they can afford to experiment with the combination in the next three games. “The need to have flexibility in order to handle all eventualities,” as Chappell says, can then be dealt with.
“If we play as we have been doing in this series there’s no reason why we can’t wrap it up here,” Chappell said while making it clear that there was “no intention of resting Sachin”.
He, though, added: “We need to manage our resources well. We need to rest the players with regard to their role in the team. This will also enable them to recharge their batteries.”
Chappell was all praise for Virender Sehwag despite him not being in the ‘mood’ yet. “He has the ability to do any job designated on a given day. He provided excellent support to Dhoni during the second-wicket stand and even later as a runner. Not everybody is going to score on all days. Sehwag is playing his role well.”
The Nehru Stadium wicket here has a tinge of green and looks full of runs. “There will be a bit of bounce early on,” felt Rahul Dravid. “The wicket has bit more grass than other places but it should generally help the batsmen,” was Atapattu’s reading.
The Sri Lankan captain is drawing solace from their batting in Jaipur. “In the last game we did 90 per cent right. But when Dhoni came out and played the innings of his life, it’s a bit tough to stage a comeback,” said Atapattu.
To add to the visitors’ woes they will be without Mahela Jayawardene who is back home for his marriage. Upul Tharanga or Thilan Samaraweera will take his place in the team, the captain informed. India, on the other hand, are likely to retain the same side.
While the failures of some of the seniors have led to the Lankans’ dismal performance, Atapattu did not wish to pinpoint anyone. “There’s no point pointing fingers at individuals. If that is the case, then I have to pick myself first. We’re aiming for a collective effort and for the team to do well. It’s just that things are not moving our way,” he explained.
“After setting a target of 299, I thought we had a better chance in Jaipur. But Dhoni took it away in no time. There’s no point getting upset as it was a one-off thing.
“Tomorrow will be a do or die game. But we have to take it as another game. If we bat the way we did in the third game, we will have a good chance. We must make our own luck and make things happen to our liking,” Atapattu said.
“Dhoni outplayed us,” he murmured again. “It was power hitting. We’ve to think about definite areas and attacks to him.”
Dhoni, for his part, didn’t seem much interested in the rhetoric. After some wicketkeeping practice, he had a quiet knock before retiring for the day.
Perhaps he still has more fireworks in store for the visitors.
INDIA (from): Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Jai Prakash Yadav, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Y. Venugopal Rao, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, Murali Kartik, Suresh Raina.
SRI LANKA (from): Sanath Jayasuriya, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Chandana, Russel Arnold, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Fervez Mahroof, Chaminda Vaas, Upul Tharanga, Lokuhettige Dilhara, Muttiah Muralidharan, Dilhara Fernando, Thilan Samaraweera, Nuwan Zoysa.
Umpires: Billy Bowden, A.V. Jayaprakash. TV: I. Sivaram.
Match Referee: Alan Hurst.
Match starts: 9 am.