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India vs. Sri Lanka is a contest on different levels
by Gulu Ezekiel
Oct 23, 2005
Much of the focus of the one-day series against Sri Lanka beginning next week will undoubtedly be on Sachin Tendulkar. He is of course used to it by now.

But being out of the international game for six months through injury, his longest absence till now, has only increased the appetite of Indian cricket fans. By all accounts, Tendulkar'’s appetite has increased as well, which is remarkable considering he has been around for so long now.

The visit by the Lankans is their first full-fledged tour (they return in December for three Test matches) —since December 1997. India last visited Lanka for a full tour in 2001. Considering the ICC'’s reciprocal programme of tours, why these two neighbouring countries have played so little cricket against each other, even less than between India and Pakistan, is something that the authorities need to explain.

Lanka are after all the second ranked ODI team in the world and full of wondrously talented players.

Tendulkar had also missed the 2001 tour of Lanka. Which means that cricket fans have been cruelly deprived of a mouth-watering duel between one of the greatest batsmen and bowlers in the history of cricket. For Muthiah Muralitharan was nowhere near his best back in 1997.

In between they have faced each other in occasional ODIs, but not in a Test match. We will have to wait a couple of more months for that.

Captain Rahul Dravid certainly has a challenge on his hands and he will be hoping Tendulkar gets back into his groove pretty quickly. The master batsman had a quiet time in the recent Challenger one-day series. But coach Greg Chappell feels he is peaking at the right time.

Led by the strokeful Marvan Atapattu, the Lankans will also be looking to pace spearhead Chaminda Vaas who has consistently troubled the Indian batsmen. Veteran Sanath Jayasuriya has also been a thorn in India’'s side over the years.

Apart from the tussles on the field, the series will also see the coaches on both sides match wits. Remember, the Australian Tom Moody, now with Lanka was one of the candidates for the job which eventually went to Chappell earlier this year. That too is sure to add spice to the series.

Of course the shadow over the entire series will be cast by Sourav Ganguly. He will be hoping to force his way back into the playing XI for the third game onwards, though who he can possibly replace in a strong batting line-up is the big question.

The Indian pace bowling department has a raw look to it. With Zaheer Khan still on the sidelines, this might be just the opportunity for a couple of youngsters to stake their claim.

 
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