Sign Up
  Forgot Password
Live Coverage
  Live Scorecards
  Upcoming Matches
Dreamcricket RSS
COCA COLA PREVIEW: Sri lanka must be favourites
by P. Rajan

 Send us your feedback to this article

Sanath Jayasuriya is a genial soft-spoken fellow, it is only his cricketing vocabulary (i.e. when he speaks with his bat) that is loud and violent.

He is not given to courting controversy or slagging opponents or being discourteous. Thus, when he said "New Zealand are our main rivals" in the forthcoming Coca Cola Trophy, Saurav Ganguly must have flinched from the insult.

India has never owned a one-day reputation, not even after winning the 1983 World Cup; we have played well on occasion, but it has been a flickering form.

The recent past provides hard evidence. Inspired performances ended with an unremarkable defeat to New Zealand in the International Cricket Council Knock-out final in Nairobi last October.

In the Sharjah series that followed, they lost all three times to Sri Lanka, including being dismissed for a lowest-ever total of 54.

In India, they jousted with the Aussies but lost the final; after spanking the opposition in Zimbabwe, they lost their bearings improbably against the mediocre West Indians.

Once upon a time, of course, form meant nothing in one day cricket; it was the day that mattered. Australia, and South Africa to an extent, have disproved that theory: it is an art, they have shown, that can be mastered, the so-called `glorious uncertainties' whittled down to a minimum.

With two years, not a long time, left for the 2003 World Cup it is that task that awaits India.

India is in the midst of its busiest season, 14 months where they will play 22 Test matches and 41 one day internationals. Of course, it is too much cricket, and one day events like the Coca Cola up are of scant value.

Still, this overkill offers some opportunities to India. First, to experiment. In that context Sachin Tendulkar's absence (though now it seems he may be out for only 3 matches) is a blessing. The psychological weight Tendulkar brings to this team is enormous, and Wasim Akram would pointedly say, "When Tendulkar is out, I can see shoulders droop in your dressing room".

Yet Australia has won Test matches without Steve Waugh, an equally powerful character, and it is time for other players (young ones like Badani, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Khurasia, Sodhi) to take responsibility, to prove the point that the power of the team is always greater than a single individual.

It is also a time for India to rotate, to decide on a pool, and use them accordingly, especially in the one dayers, else the side that goes to the 2003 World Cup will require walking sticks and wheelchairs. In this rotation, medium pace/fast bowlers deserve priority, for South Africa's fast, bouncy wickets demand virtues of speed. In that context, picking spinner Rahul Sanghvi over Harvinder Singh who did little wrong (despite the deadness of Sri Lankan pitches) escapes logic.

Finally, Ganguly must be appointed for a long period. It is no point Chandu Borde, chairman of selectors, saying, "We are quite happy with the way Ganguly has led the side" and then nominating him captain series-by-series. At the moment, barring Dravid (and believe me his time will come) India has no other captaincy contenders (Tendulkar not so quickly again, Kumble's form uncertain), and every unsettl ing aspect (Ganguly is not pleased with constant debate over his leadership) hurts the team. Like a jigsaw, you can't keep fiddling with pieces.

Ganguly backs his players, in private through notes, and publicly, as he does with Amay Khurasia. He, and John Wright, are also demanding, which is what they will have to be in Sri Lanka. They are not overly burdened with talent (thin bowling, average wicketkeeping, uncertain batting), but then neither are their opponents.

The absence of Chris Cairns, possibly the only Kiwi worthy of a world XI, is significant, but they will be bolstered by their Nairobi win, a powerful reminder they own the requisite ability to take on the best. For a tiny country, whose worship of the All Blacks leaves little time for other sports, somehow they seem to eke out new players. Thus alongside the familiar names of Fleming/McMillan/Parore/Nash are Franklin/ Mills/Oram/Vincent. Untested yet ambitious.

The Kiwis are not elegant (except on Fleming's good days), exciting or inspired (McMillan occasionally), but industrious and look to exploit the opposition's vulnerabilities. India is a better team, man for man, but needs to show it.

Sri lanka is the best of three, aided by home advantage. They have had a fractious few years, with team re-building, match fixing allegations, and chaotic officialdom. The only vital constant has been coach Dave Whatmore, whose quiet presence and ability to mesh Western discipline with Eastern flair, is often overlooked. Ranatunga aside, Whatmore's influence on their 1996 World Cup win can never be diminished.

In Jayasuriya (not the player he was but then such explosiveness always has a quick expiry date, but he still possesses substantial gifts), Attapattu, Arnold, Jayawardene, they have batsmen who can stay and accelerate, strokemakers who are delightful and dangerous.

Bowling wise, Vaas is still clever and quick, and though the brittle Zoysa is out again, Dinusha Fernando is worth a long look. As for Muralitharan, there is not much to say, except that had he been born in England or Australia, Shane Warne would not be so quickly regarded as the world's best spinner.(Note: Warne's Test bowling average is 26.32 and strike rate 64; Murli's is 25.62 and 64; Warne's one day average is 24.96, strike rate 35.2 and economy 4.24, while Murli's is 25.39, 37.9 and 4.01.)

Sri Lanka just seem to have a better sense of one day cricket, more ebullient, a trifle more disciplined, more threatening with the bat.

Each team plays each other thrice, which is a money making exercise not much else; better to play each other twice and have three finals.

India should reach the finals; then having lost so many recently we will discover if they have the character to overturn the odds.

Tri-Nation ODI:Preview July 17

Ashes 2nd Test:Preview July 16

Ashes 2001:Preview June 29

Keep Your Expectations Low About India And Be Rewarded June 22

Second Test: Confidence Is The Key For India June 13

Any cricket team's most searching examination... June 1

  About Us  |   Dreamcricket in the Media  |   Indoor Batting Cages  |   Wholesale Inquiries  |   Event Management  |   Disclaimer © 2009 dreamcricket.com