The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Listen to the lady, lads
Man to watch
Yuvraj Singh
His clean hitting means he doesn’t care if the field is spread out. And he usually finishes the job

Port of Spain, March 22: A middle-aged lady with a placard stood patiently near the gates of the National Cricket Centre, yards from the Indian practice session. As the players trooped out and climbed into the team bus, hardly any of them shot a glance at her.

Her message read: “If 402 could be achieved in 1976, why not Sri Lanka'”

For those who don’t remember, 402 was the target India crossed against the West Indies here that year to set a then Test run-chase record.

The placard caught Greg Chappell’s eye as he looked up from the autograph books thrust before him. An impish smile crossed the India coach’s face.

“Yeah, yeah…” he nodded as the woman tried to remind him of the historic deeds of Sunil Gavaskar and G.R. Vishwanath at the Queen’s Park Oval three decades ago.

Most Indian fans won’t be looking that far back to find hope ahead of tomorrow’s crunch match. A handful of one-dayers played just a month ago at home are proof enough that Rahul Dravid’s men know how the job can be done.

Man to watch
Sanath Jayasuriya
When you talk of mega run chases, remember he started it all 11 years ago. And don’t forget his bowling

The memory of that 1-3 series defeat prompted Mahela Jayawardene to throw down the gauntlet yesterday.

“We knew it would be a great challenge to go there (to India) and play,” the Sri Lanka captain said. “Now it is probably our turn to show them. This is a different venue, different conditions and we are looking forward to it.”

Dravid, too, spoke of the “different conditions and a different wicket” but with less enthusiasm. He may prefer losing the toss tomorrow to avoid having to make a crucial choice.

With not many in the team backing his decision to bat first against Bangladesh, the skipper may not want to risk first strike against Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga on a track the chief groundsman promises will be lively.

“The wicket will have bounce and pace. The grass will help seam movement, but the spinners won’t get much assistance,” Shaker Mano said.

Would he bat first' Mano wasn’t telling. “It’s for the captain to decide. But if batsmen apply themselves, scoring will not be a problem. The Indian batsmen didn’t apply themselves against Bangladesh.”

At an impromptu team meeting today, the seniors discussed issues that need attention.

The net run rate isn’t one of them. Bangladesh has fallen to –2.002 after the loss to Lanka (+4.594), and a win by India (+2.507) tomorrow will put the Blues virtually beyond the reach of Habibul Bashar’s boys.

India is likely to spring a surprise by including Irfan Pathan as the fifth bowler on a seaming pitch. He may even regain his No. 3 slot in the batting order.

Sreesanth, too, may get a look-in, replacing the unimpressive Ajit Agarkar. If that happens, at least one Indian on the ground will not be lagging the Lankans in body language.

“We’re not entertaining negative thoughts. Not thinking about anything other than winning,” Dravid said. “We’re resilient… hopefully we can pull it off.”

A victory would send the Indians to the Super Eight with two points. They can be expected to beat Ireland easily. Theoretically, wins over the West Indies and England could then see them through to the semi-finals.

“The whole country will be watching,” Yuvraj Singh said. “There have been months of preparation…. We’ve travelled a long way to get here and wouldn’t like to go home early.”

India (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan/Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar/Sreesanth, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

Sri Lanka (likely): Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Chamara Silva/Marvan Atapattu, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Fervez Maharoof, Russel Arnold, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralidharan, Lasith Malinga.

Umpires: Daryl Harper, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis (TV)

Match referee: Jeff Crowe.

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