| Virender Sehwag (from left), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Suresh Raina during a practice session in Hambantota, on Monday |
Hambantota: After starting the new season with a comfortable victory, India will be aiming to keep up the momentum when they take on hosts Sri Lanka in the second ODI here Tuesday.
India cruised to a 21-run win against the islanders in the opening ODI — courtesy the in-form Virat Kohli who smashed 106, and Virender Sehwag, who made a significant contribution with an innings of 96.
The strip at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium where the first ODI was played seemed to be a typical limited overs pitch where the batsmen have a field day once they get their eye in. It is a wicket where ‘win the toss and bat first’ is the mantra for all captains and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was no different on the other day.
The windy conditions initially help the swing bowlers, but primarily it’s the batsmen who dominate in these conditions.
For India, it will be an advantage of sorts as Sri Lanka’s most consistent new-ball bowler in recent times, Nuwan Kulasekara is out of the series with a groin injury sustained while trying to attempt a catch during the first ODI. Nuwan Pradeep has been drafted in his place.
All eyes will again be on Kohli, who has now scored four centuries in his last five appearances and is in the form of his life. It would certainly boost his confidence that he has started the new season with another flawless knock. Ditto for Virender Sehwag, who had skipped the Asia Cup due to an injury and was keen to get a head start as it is supposed to be a long and hard season for Team India.
Gautam Gambhir will be keen to shrug off the disappointment of getting out cheaply in the first match and make amends in Tuesday’s game.
Suresh Raina and Dhoni have always been pretty consistent in the shorter formats and their valuable contribution at the death overs certainly made a lot of difference.
Rohit Sharma’s indifferent form, however, sticks out like a sore thumb amid the good batting form of his teammates.
Having scored only two centuries in 81 ODIs certainly doesn’t do justice to his enormous promise. A poor average of 32-plus is something that should definitely worry Rohit as he goes about trying to transform talent into match-winning performances.
However, it is unlikely that the Indian team management would tinker with the playing XI for at least another couple of matches unless they are forced to due to injury concerns. Skipper Dhoni will, however, want his bowlers to up the ante after being penalised for slow over-rate in the last match.
All-rounder Irfan Pathan’s presence in the side lends the necessary balance. Although his pace has dropped considerably, his ability to get movement with the new ball is something that adds dimension to the attack. The Indians will also have to counter Kumar Sangakkara who hit a splendid 133 in the last match but ran out of partners.
Tillekaratne Dilshan and skipper Mahela Jayawardene are the players who are not known to go through prolonged bad patch and on their day can destroy any bowling attack in world cricket.
Match starts: 2.30 pm.