Tri-series final India vs Sri Lanka Preview
Bolstered by their dramatic comeback in the tournament, a rejuvenated India will be gunning for yet another title triumph when they clash with an equally determined Sri Lanka in the final of the tri-nation ODI series here on Thursday.
The reigning Champions Trophy winners may also get a further boost with the possibility of their regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni returning to the playing XI after being laid low by a hamstring injury. A decision will be taken about Dhoni`s avaibility before the toss.
Their campaign in tatters after back-to-back defeats in the first leg of the tournament, the Indians fought back with two bonus-point wins to cruise into the final at the expense of hosts West Indies.
Despite the absence of Dhoni, who was ruled out after the loss to West Indies in their series opener, stand-in skipper Virat Kohli successfully braved a difficult phase with the `Men in Blue` rising to the occasion.
India entered the final as table-toppers having posted two wins from four matches — same as the other two teams — but they had the advantage of enjoying a better net run-rate.
The Indian team composition for Thursday`s game at the Queen`s Park Oval will more or less be the same. If Dhoni is declared fit, Murali Vijay will make way for the senior player. However, one thing is for sure that neither Kohli nor Dhoni is going to tinker with the winning composition.
The Sri Lankans will once again look to old guards Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara for success against a team that has been their nemesis in a few tournament finals, including the 2011 World Cup.
Both Jayawardene and Sangakkara have had their share of success against India in the past and it will be crucial from the islanders` point of view that the two veterans click for the team.
But it won`t be easy for the Sri Lankans as they had just suffered a defeat to India, a result that paved the way for their South Asian neighbour`s convincing entry into the title clash ahead of the hosts.
Though they haven`t really set the Caribbean islands ablaze with their exploits, India`s batting still wears a formidable look with the in-form Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma opening the innings.
Rohit made an unbeaten 48 in Tuesday`s must-win game against Sri Lanka to go with his 46 in their 102-run victory against the West Indies. Dhawan fell early yesterday but compiled a fluent 77-ball 69 in the win against the hosts.
Kohli is the pivot around which the Indian batting revolves, and the Delhi player left his mark with a century off just 83 balls in their penultimate round-robin match against the West Indies.
Then there is Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina with rising all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja completing the batting line-up. And in the event of Dhoni returning to the playing XI, it will only strengthen the batting.
In the bowling department, India`s young bowlers excelled and were largely responsible for setting up victories in the last two matches.
22-year-old seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who produced a career-best dream spell of 4 for 8 in a devastating exhibition of swing bowling against the Lankans yesterday, deserves special mention. He was also successful in the win against the West Indies picking up three wickets.
Umesh Yadav, too, has been impressive picking up wickets at regular intervals in the last two games, and so were Ishant Sharma and Jadeja.
As far as the Sri Lankans are concerned, they will have to shore up the batting after the lackluster display against India when they were bundled out for 96 in 24.4 overs while chasing 178 in 26 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis method in yet another rain-hit match.
It will take a lot of doing from the likes of Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and skipper Angelo Mathews to outdo the in-form Indian seamers led admirably by the young Bhuvneshwar.
The leading wicket-taker in the series with eight scalps from three games, Kumar`s performance in the last game is the best by an Indian bowler in the West Indies in ODIs, bettering Amit Mishra`s four for 31 at Port of Spain in 2011.
For Rohit, the Caribbean islands are proving to be a happy hunting ground as he has already amassed 431 runs at an average of 53.87 in 13 matches.
Another factor that works in India`s favour is that they have won four consecutive ODIs on this venue over the last two years.
Regarding Dhoni, he had done a bit of running ahead of their match against must-win match against Sri Lanka and Kohli had said at the toss that he could be ready to play the final.
Dhoni injured his right hamstring during India`s one-wicket loss to the West Indies on June 30, while running between the wickets.
He had received on-field treatment but did not take the field in the second innings. He was subsequently replaced by Ambati Rayudu in the squad but, unlike in ICC tournaments where replacements require official sanctioning and are binding, there are no rules in this tournament to prevent him from playing the final.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Kusal Perera, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Mahela Jayawardene, Jeevan Mendis, Ajantha Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Dilhara Lokuhettige and Shaminda Eranga.
Match starts at 7 pm (IST).