India to test bench strength against Sri Lanka in Kotla ODI

By Avishek Roy, IANS,

New Delhi: Having clinched the One-day series at the Eden Gardens, India would not only like to win the fifth and last match against Sri Lanka, but also test their bench strength at Ferozeshah Kotla here Sunday.

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Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has returned to lead the side after sitting out in Cuttack and Kolkata following a two-match ban for slow over rate, said he would be making a couple of changes but would not tinker too much with the winning combination.

With out-of-form fast bowler Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar axed from the squad for the final ODI, medium-pacers Ashok Dinda and Sudeep Tyagi can hope to get their first ODI cap on a slow track in the dead rubber.

Dhoni, however, said the pitch will be different from the one they have played so far and expected the slow bowlers to have a bigger say.

“It looks the relaid track will help spinners. We have been playing day-night matches so far and so it is difficult to predict the nature of the wicket for a day game,” said Dhoni after the team’s practice session Saturday.

Sri Lanka, however, will be looking to salvage some pride having already lost the series 1-3.

The islanders came with much promise and expectation, but nothing has gone right for them througout the tour. They were outplayed in the Test series, losing 0-2, split the two Twenty20 matches and came close to putting it across India in the One-dayers.

In the first ODI in Rajkot, Sri Lanka almost chased the 414-run target but fell short by three runs. They drew level in Nagpur before India under stand-in captain Virender Sehwag settled the issue, winning at Cuttack and Kolkata.

Sri Lanka have lost at least two games from a position of strength, the Indians wriggling out from difficult situations in the high-scoring series.

In the fourth ODI in Kolkata, the Sri Lankans posted the highest total on the ground, 315, and India, playing without skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh and losing Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early, showed their bench strength. Gautam Gambhir anchored the innings brilliantly and young Virat Kohli proved his potential with a fluent century to see the team through.

The series comes as a refreshing break in the year that saw India’s performance dip in the shorter version of the game despite becoming the No.1 in Tests. The early exit from the Champions Trophy and the crushing loss at home to Australia were the ODI lows. The team, however, fought back well against Sri Lanka. Notwithstanding the sub-standard fielding, they were able to plug the loopholes with the batting coming good at crucial junctures.

Sri Lanka have struggled with their inexperienced bowling and the injuries have further pegged them back. Veteran Muttiah Muralitharan had to leave after the Test series with a finger injury while experienced fast bowler Dilhara Fernando injured his finger attempting to catch Dhoni in the first ODI at Rajkot.

Left-arm fast bowler Chanaka Welegedera, who was the find of the series, was out of the Kolkata ODI due to a groin injury but he is likely to play Sunday.

The Sri Lankan batting is too over dependent on the top three, openers Upul Tharanga Tillakaratne Dilshan and skipper Kumar Sangakkara. However, experienced Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene have failed to deliver, prompting Sangakkara to say that the “seniors should learn from the juniors”.

On the other hand, the Indian middle order has been more consistent. Skipper Dhoni feels that batting has indeed made the difference.

“All the matches in the series were high scoring. More often that not, both the teams had got good starts through Tillakaratane Dilshan and Virender Sehwag. They are more or less similar in style. But even when Sehwag got out early, the strong Indian middle order has managed to put up a good total which has not been the case with Sri Lanka,” Dhoni said.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain-wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Sudeep Tyagi, Ashok Dinda, S. Sreesanth and Pragyan Ojha

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (captain-wicketkeeper), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Thilan Samaraweera, Sanath Jayasuriya, Suraj Randiv, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Thissara Perera, Chanaka Welegedara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara and Chamara Kapugedera.