|Player:||G Gambhir, MS Dhoni, P Kumar, SR Tendulkar, V Sehwag, BAW Mendis, M Muralitharan, DPMD Jayawardene, TM Dilshan, ST Jayasuriya, Z Khan, KMDN Kulasekara|
|Event:||India in Sri Lanka 2008/09|
DateLine: 26th January 2009
An India Sri Lanka contest has never been a vitriolic one as a India-Pakistan contest or India-Australia contest. Both the teams have played matches which has never lacked intensity or competitiveness. This series has been a hastily arranged one between the boards which features five 50 over contests and two T20s. India is coming off an unusually long rest after the cancelled Pakistan tour and Sri Lanka will be returning from Pakistan after the three one-dayers which they won comprehensively. The year 2008 has been a good one for the Indian team in which they won the CB series in Australia, won for the first time a bilateral series in Sri Lanka and thumped England 5-0 in the home series. In between they squared a Test series against South Africa, wrenched back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from Australia and defeated England in the test matches at home. There were small aberrations in between when they lost both the finals of the Kiptly Cup and the Asia Cup 2008. They also went down in the Test series against Sri Lanka 2-0 where they did not have any answers to the questions posed by the spin duo of Mendis and Muralidharan. Sri Lanka meanwhile enjoyed a mixed bag in the year 2008, as they won the prestigious Asia Cup, they surprisingly went down to a determined India team in the one-day series after thumping them soundly in the Test matches. Though they prevailed over Zimbabwe in the ODI series the 5-0 scoreline does not indicate how close Zimbabwe ran them and the final of the Bangladesh Tri-series would been an embarrassing lose to Bangladesh had not Murali brought out his best batting performance in his career. The one day series in Pakistan was won convincingly by the margin 2-1 after losing the first match. On the current form of both the teams it looks like the contest is going to be a close one and the balance would be slightly in Sri Lanka's favour as they were on the cricket field for some time and Indian would be coming off after quiet a long lay-off.
Head to Head Both the teams have played 106 matches in all with the result favouring India 55 times while Sri Lanka winning 41 times while the other 10 matches have ended in no-results.
Both the teams have clashed eleven times in the 50 over format in 2008 with India prevailing over the Lankan lions six times while Sri Lanka have put across India on four occasions and one match being washed out after being interestingly poised.
Both the teams clashed for the first time in 2008 in the CB Series in Australia. They played against each other four times with India winning on two occasions, Sri Lanka winning in the abbreviated match and the other being washed out.
The first match between these two sides of the CB Series was played at the Gabba, Brisbane. It was the second match of the series and the inclement weather did not permit the Sri Lankan innings to get underway. The Indian innings though lasted the full fifty overs where they scored 267 for the loss of four wickets. Gambhir was the top scorer as he nudged and bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten 102 of 100 balls with Dhoni chipping in with a brutal 88 and together they added an unbroken 184 runs for the fifth wicket. The chase would have been interesting had the Sri Lankan team batted but unfortunately the weather did not permit and the points were shared.
The two side met for the second time in the series and India by the time had defeated Australia and were sitting on top of the table. Sri Lanka meanwhile had not opened their account and were looking for their first win of the tournament. Once again the weather played havoc on the contest and India were on the wrong end of the weather adjustments after Rohit Sharma's career-best 70 not out set up what should have been a competitive total following morning showers. But further rain during the innings break meant Sri Lanka could pursue a victory in Twenty20 style. India scored 195 in their alloted 29 overs for the loss of five wickets while for the Sri Lankan chase the total was adjusted and they needed 154 from 21 overs. They got to the target with two overs to spare as Dilshan guided his team through with a gusty 62.
Both the teams were beaten hollow by the Australian in the preceding matches and a victory to one off them will ensure that the future path to the finals would not be bumpy. Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first and on the back of Sangakkara's beautifully paced century Sri Lanka posed a healthy 238 in their alloted 50 overs. India needed to chase the total in 40 overs to win the bonus point. India lost Tendulkar for a second ball duck to a peach of a delivery from Malinga and after being reduced to 35 for 3 inside 12 overs the aim for the bonus point was dropped. Yuvraj Singh who was out of touch finally found his form as he smashed the Sri Lankan attack to smithereens to a brutal 76 while Dhoni very cleverly nudged his way to a boundaryless 50 to win an important game for India.
The final match was a must-win for both the teams as a win would propel them into the finals. All the pieces finally fell into place for India as they closed their campaign in the league phase of the CB series with an emphatic seven-wicket win against Sri Lanka in Hobart. Praveen Kumar scythed through the Sri Lankan batting line-up with a four-wicket haul as they restricted to a below-par score of 179. India chased down the target in 32 overs as Tendulkar finally found some form as he hammered his way to 63 runs. With this win India dumped Sri Lanka out of the tournament and walked through to the finals.
Both the teams clashed in the Asia Cup, once in the Super Fours and in the finals. India won the Super Four contest but Sri Lanka won the final comprehensively to retain the tag of the Asian champions.
It was the final match of the Super Fours and also a dress rehearsal for the final. Sri Lanka opted to keep Mendis under wrap and went into the match. Most of their batsmen chipped in to help Sri Lanka to a huge total of 308 for the loss of 8 wickets in their 50 overs. India in reply overhauled the target in 47 overs. It was the batting might of India that helped them to overhaul the target and they were well placed to meet Sri Lanka for the second time in the final.
The final proved to be a one-sided affair as Mendis decimated the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up. Jayasuriya muscled his way to 124 as none of the other batsman could put up a substantial score and they scored 273 in their 50 overs. The score looked very much below-par when Sehwag was teeing off and the Indian score raced off to 76 in 9 overs when Jayawardene unleashed Mendis on the unsuspecting Indians and with it a hellish experience began for the Indians. Mendis bamboozled a highly rated batting line-up to finish with astonishing figures of 6 for 13. Virender Sehwag's blistering early onslaught was rendered irrelevant as Sri Lanka stormed to a 100-run victory, retaining the Asia Cup and extending India's miserable record in tournament finals.
If the Test series went in Sri Lanka's way, India fought hard till the very end to secure their first bilateral win in Sri Lankan soil with a 3-2 win in the series. MS Dhoni led from the front and though none of the batsmen were able to comprehend Mendis fully, they still managed to stick around and score runs by grafting.
Remorseless Sri Lanka thrashed India in the opening match of the one-day series. India won the toss and elected to bat first but the judgment of Dhoni proved wrong. Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara did the initial damaged before Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan blew away the rest to bowl out India for 146. Without having to contend with the pressure of a high asking rate, a serene Mahela Jayawardene weathered the minor hiccup of the loss of the openers and steered his side home in the company of Chamara Kapugedera. India looked completely lost with the Lankan spin magicians and the Sri Lankan summer of mystery continues to taunt and tease the Indians.
India fought back to level the series 1-1 with a three-wicket win but the victory was far from convincing as they made heavy weather of a modest target of 143. Zaheer Khan's dramatic opening spell, which sent Sri Lanka's top order reeling, was the highlight of the match as India restricted Sri Lanka to a gettable score. The contrast, however, was the manner in which victory was achieved. While Sri Lanka coasted home in the first ODI, India lost early wickets, grafted, lost few more, recovered, and later limped to the target. MS Dhoni kept a cool head and debutant S Badrinath showed maturity in supporting his captain to attain the target.
Seamers and Dhoni scripted a 33-run win to take lead in the series. For the second game in succession, an inspired opening spell by India's seam attack of Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar destroyed Sri Lanka. A middle-of-the-road target of 238 was always going to be competitive under lights but a flurry of early wickets before effectively sealed the match. Both captains arrested top-order slides with fighting half-centuries, but his bowlers made Mahendra Singh Dhoni's effort count in the end. For Sri Lanka, only Mahela Jayawardene displayed the technique and temperament to craft a lengthy innings and though he had Thilan Thushara for company to give his side a glimmer of hope, their partnership came a little too late. Jayawardene fell six short of a deserved century and with his dismissal Sri Lanka's last chance of snatching a miracle went up in smoke.
India made the most of the toss, a vicious turner in the second innings and Sri Lanka's feeble batting to record their first bilateral one-day series triumph on the island, completing a stunning turnaround from the crushing defeat in the opener in Dambulla. Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front with his batting and on-field captaincy but this was a team performance as India recovered from a shaky start to choke Sri Lanka out of the match. Finally after being defeated by India in three matches in succession the Lankan bowlers finally came to the fore by powering Sri Lanka to a consolation win in the series. Nuwan Kulasekara dismissed the Indian top order, troubling the batsmen with movement off the seam, after Thilan Thushara had scored a half-century to boost a faltering Sri Lankan innings to 227. There followed a rain interruption and, when play resumed with six overs docked, India crumbled to Ajantha Mendis and Dilhara Fernando, losing seven wickets for 33 runs to finish on 103, their lowest score in Sri Lanka.
Five Players to watch
Gambhir: The southpaw after being in the wilderness and in the shadows of self-doubt has finally established himself to be a vital-cog in the Indian set-up. In all forms of the game he has proved to be on the reliable batsman and he is coming off a very successful season with the Indian team. Though he was is good form last season, he could not make most of it during his last visit to the Emerald Island last time.
Praveen Kumar: An unheralded and unsung hero of the Indian team which triumphed on the Lankan soil the last time. He opened the bowling with Zaheer Khan in the matches he played and had an important hand in wrecking havoc on the Lankan batting line-up.
Tendulkar: He missed out the previous series due to injury, but he did not enjoy the last time he made the visit to the Lankan soil. He was cut to size by the spin twins and he will be looking forward to correct the blemish of the last tour.
Sehwag: The man in-form for the Indian team. He missed out the one-day leg of the tour due to injury and off the Indian batsmen, only he was able to thwart the threat posed by Mendis and Murali. He got injured at the wrong time and he will be looking forward for the battle between the spinners. His more than handy off-breaks will be an added asset to Dhoni.
Zaheer Khan: The Indian pace spearhead will be given the task of leading the Indian bowling attack and with the absence of Harbhajan Singh his responsibility will increase.
MS Dhoni: The Emerald Island will give him some pleasant memories of the last time visit. He led the team to their first-ever bilateral win in Sri Lanka and also capped off the tour by winning the man-of-the-match award. He will be looking to repeat the performance again and this time it will not be easy.
Mendis: As the series was drawing close, the Indian batsmen were able to comprehend what was coming out from the hand of Mendis. Though not entirely comfortable, they were able to play him and more importantly score runs off. His effectiveness were slightly reduced by the pitches in Pakistan, but with him returning to the familiar Lankan pitches he looks very threatening for the Indian batsmen.
Muralidharan: He has recently entered the 500 wicket club and he needs just 3 more wickets to go to the top. He was neutralized by the Indians to great effect the last time they played and he will be looking forward to play havoc on the Indian batting line-up.
Jayasuriya: As wine keeps getting better with time, Jayasuriya keeps getting better. He is almost touching 40 and still his love of the game keeps him going strong. He has always been the bogeyman for India and will be looking forward to torture his favourite opponent.
Dilshan: He has always been doing the 'dirty work' for the Sri Lankan team. If there is a collapse it will be left to him to resurrect the innings before giving it the final thrust which he is capable off. His presence in the field will make the opponent to think twice before going for a risky run and his off-breaks always comes handy whether it is to break a partnership or stop the flow of runs. He is in red-hot form now and will be handful for the Indians.
Kulasekara: The unsung bowler for the Sri Lankan. Has neither the physical attributes of a pacer nor the pace needed to trouble the batsmen, but makes it up with the swing and accuracy. Jayawardene: He has been going through a horror time with the bat but his captaincy skills is up there with the best. With a trusted deputy in the form of Sangakkara, he has marshaled his troops very effectively. He Will be looking to score some runs in the upcoming series.