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'Expect no favours from the Lankans'
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jul 29, 2005
Sri Lanka have built up a formidable reputation in ODI tournaments at home and must start as hot favourites for the three-nation Indian Oil Cup which begins on Saturday.

India will be going into a full tournament for the first time in five years with a new captain and also a new coach.

Even with Sourav Ganguly’s belated back-door entry mid-way through the event, Rahul Dravid will be holding the reins. This could be his best chance to gain the captaincy on a more permanent basis, though it might be somewhat stifling with Ganguly playing under Dravid for the first time.

The West Indies are the no-hopers just making up the numbers and an India-Lanka final is a virtual certainty. Missing the cream of their top players, including superstar Brian Lara due to yet another contracts dispute, they are just coming out of a bruising 2-0 Test series defeat at the hands of the hosts.

Of course India too will be without the services of their own superstar, Sachin Tendulkar. But that is a situation they have increasingly got accustomed to over the last few years with the champion bat dropping out with one injury after another.

Of greater interest will be how coach Greg Chappell on his first assignment and captain Dravid hit it off.

Chappell is known to have a good chemistry with Ganguly and will now have to factor in having to deal with Dravid as captain. That will be a challenge to both the coach and the captain.

The team itself is coming out of a bruising season, the last with John Wright holding the coach’s post in which ‘Murphy’s Law’ seemed to strike again and again—‘If something can go wrong, it will.’

With the next 10 months seeing almost non-stop action at home and around the cricket world, this tournament is the ideal launching pad for the start of the rebuilding and healing process.

Expect no favours from the Lankans, who have proved to be superior to India in recent matches in their backyard, including a year back in the Asia Cup tournament where they beat India in the final.

Sri Lanka are the first visitors to India this season when they play Tests and ODIs from November and about time too.

It is strange indeed that this will be their first visit to India since 1997 for a full tour. India last played a full series in Lanka in 2001 which means it is four years since the two nations have faced each other in a Test match.

Whatever happened to the ICC reciprocal tour system? While India and Zimbabwe have been back and forth to each other’s lands since 2000, the Lankans have been absent for far too long.

They were something of a pushover when they toured eight years ago though they won the last series on their own soil.

It will be a rare sight to have Muthiah Muralitharan in action on Indian pitches and one hopes Tendulkar will be fit to face him as he missed the 2001 clash.

Still, for now till August 9 the focus will be on ODIs.

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