Colombo, July 31: Sourav Ganguly does have pet hates — one surely is being accused of leading a side which chokes on the biggest occasions. After all, in over four years as the Team India captain, he has only one outright win and two joint champions finishes to show for in limited overs tournaments.
Having said that, Sourav is determined to get this part of his captaincy record straight. The morrow, perhaps, could then see more inspirational moves as India meets Sri Lanka in the final of the Indian Oil-sponsored Asia Cup.
Much of the attention will clearly be on Sourav, but the captain isn’t allowing the pressure to overwhelm him.
Back at his Taj Samudra suite after another demanding workout, in the evening, Sourav indulged in a bit of channel surfing and then decided on a stroll off the lobby. In any case, Dona and Sana had probably gone to the beach.
“I’m pretty relaxed.... With experience, I know it doesn’t help being tense…. It’s a huge game and I’m going to ask the boys, too, not to lose sleep,” he told The Telegraph, patting his thinning (and greying) hair.
The more less-on-edge, lesser the chance of big mistakes. Actually, carrying unnecessary baggage in the mind never helps.
Earlier, at an interaction with the media, Sourav authored the quote of the competition: “To win, you need 11 hungry players.… I’ve got them…. I have a side which has won all over the world.”
Counterpart Maravan Atapattu spoke somewhat similarly: “It’s good that our players have been rising to the occasion.... Of course, expectations are high, but that’s because we’re at home — not that we’ve been placed in a unique situation...”
The captain added: “Collectively, this is one of the best periods for Sri Lanka (in ODIs).” His biggest test, though, isn’t many hours away. And, perhaps, Sachin Tendulkar is going to emerge the most prickly thorn.
Just as Sourav is keen to 'rectify' his record in tournament-deciders incidentally, the one outright success came in the 2002 NatWest Trophy and the joint champions finishes in Colombo and Dhaka, both in 2002-03 — Sachin appears determined to silence critics who have questioned his temperament in finals.
Somebody like Sanath Jayasuriya, however, has already embarrassed detractors: With back-to-back centuries, against Bangladesh (107 not out) and India (130), it can hardly be otherwise.
The Indians, therefore, need to get this 35-year-old early. If Tuesday’s form is any indication, Jayasuriya is back at his best — he improvised, found the gaps and sent the Indians into a tizzy. It was vintage stuff from this Smiling Assassin. Lucky he didn’t last the full 50 overs, or...
Today, though, Sourav admitted he shouldn’t have pulled out the slips that early. It’s a lesson from the throbbing four-run win at the Premadasa.
Batting or bowling, discipline will perhaps make the difference. In fact, this holds true for both teams (1-1 in this competition). As also the need to make the most of the field restrictions.
While the jury is still out on this one, the general belief remains that setting a target is a better option. Sourav, however, isn't burdened by the toss-factor. In the build-up, his priorities have been rather different.
Indications are the Indians are going to make one change, with
V.V.S. Laxman returning after two matches. As a result, Parthiv Patel will sit in the dressing room. If a second change is made — influenced by the wicket which, this afternoon, looked bone dry — then Ashish Nehra may replace Anil Kumble.
As for the Sri Lankans, Muttiah Muralidharan and Chaminda Vaas are going to be back, with Saman Jayantha and Lasith Mahlinga dropped.
Meanwhile, the Indians’ support base has grown with hundreds of fans arriving from New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. Even if they aren’t staying at the Taj, they have parked themselves in the lobby which seems to shrink by the hour.
Predictably, they don’t need any convincing about which side is the favourite.
INDIA (likely): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan.
SRI LANKA (likely): Sanath Jayasuriya, Avishka Gunawardene, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, T.M.Dilshan, Upul Chandana, Farveez Mahroof, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralidharan, Nuwan Zoysa.
Umpires: David Shepherd, Billy Bowden.
Match Referee: Mike Procter.
Match starts: 2.15 pm (IST).