|Virat Kohli during a practice session
Calcutta/Fatullah: Their battered pride regained after snapping an eight-ODI winless streak, five-time champions India will look to maintain the momentum when they take on Sri Lanka in what could be their first real test in the Asia Cup on Friday.
India notched up a six-wicket win against hosts Bangladesh in their opening match on Wednesday, but their real test begins against the Lankans who beat defending champions Pakistan by 12 runs.
Back on the familiar subcontinent conditions after humiliating series defeats in South Africa and New Zealand, India chased down 280 to register their first win in a while.
Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli smashed a 122-ball 136 in a 213-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane to hand India a perfect start to their Asia Cup campaign.
Kohli’s tremendous form in Bangladesh (868 runs from 10 matches at an average of 124) has made India a favourite to win the tournament despite recent overseas reverses.
That Rahane shook off a string of failures in New Zealand, where he totalled 51 in five ODIs, would mean India’s middle-order would have a settled look before the two key clashes — against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
As India’s progression into the final will hinge on the results of the two key clashes, Kohli’s men do not have the luxury to relax.
“India are a very good side... They have been playing good cricket. Virat Kohli is batting exceptionally well. They have some really good players but we got bowlers like Malinga. We have the firepower to unsettle their batting line-up,” vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal said.
“We are also doing well at the moment. Everyone in both batting and bowling departments are in good form. We are looking forward to do a good job.
“We all know, he is a really good batsman. But as I said we have something in our mind and we will see about it tomorrow. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Chandimal.
It is the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan that has been a cause for concern. Both the openers had some testing times against an ordinary Bangladesh attack.
Against Bangladesh, India fielded an unchanged XI that played against New Zealand apart from the obvious inclusion of wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik in place of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and left out Cheteshwar Pujara.
Ambati Rayudu was picked ahead of Pujara, considered by many as a Test specialist who has been included in the one-day squad with the 2015 World Cup in mind.
But in a crucial match like against Sri Lanka, it would be interesting to see whether India bring in Pujara or retain the winning XI.
As for bowling, Varun Aaron was the biggest let down as his sheer pace never troubled the Bangladeshi duo of Mushfiqur Rahim and Anamul Haque who posted a century stand to help their team pile 279 for 7.
Aaron’s length was easily picked by the Bangladesh batsmen as he conceded 74 runs from 7.5 overs before being barred after bowling two beamers.
It remains to be seen if the Indians will stick with Aaron against Sri Lanka who boast of the likes of in-form batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and opener Lahiru Thirimanne. It was learnt that the team management is toying with the idea of fielding uncapped Ishwar Pandey in place of Aaron.
Having been here since late January, Sri Lanka have been experiencing an extended taste of Bangladeshi conditions as they won the Test series 1-0, the Twenty20s 2-0 before a 3-0 sweep in the one-dayers.
But in their Asia Cup opener, Sri Lanka had some jittery moments when Pakistan looked to be in control of the 297-run chase, needing 55 from 46 balls with six wickets in hand.
Malinga, however, single-handedly changed the complexion of the game with his toe-crushing yorkers. But his inability to trouble the top-order would once again come under scrutiny when he takes on the Indian batsmen.
Sri Lankan batting will have the calming influence of Sangakkara who is having a dream run that includes his maiden triple century in Tests. Sangakkara scored a half-century against Pakistan but it was their young opener Thirimanne who impressed with a fluent century.
India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron/Ishwar Pandey.
Sri Lanka (likely): Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Chaturanga de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal.
Match starts: 1.30pm (IST).