Sri Lanka go in with two off-spinners, India one


Mumbai : Sri Lanka sprang a big surprise by making as many as four changes for the World Cup final here from the side that played the semi-final against New Zealand in Colombo, while India chose to make one change, forced by the injury to medium-pacer Ashish Nehra in the semi-final against Pakistan.

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India’s skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought in Shantakumaran Sreesanth for Nehra while Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara predictably dropped the two spinners Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, but he also decided to gamble with an extra bowler by omitting the middle-order batsman Chamara Silva, to go in with five bolwers. The fourth player to be sidelined was injured all-rounder Angelo Mathews.

Dhoni made no secret of his strategy when he said on the eve of the final that he would like to go with three seamers and he had no choice but to get Sreesanth in. The temparamental Kerala fast bowler, who played in the first league match against Bangladesh, has to control his emotions. As Dhoni quipped, “if anyone has to control Sreesanth, it is only Sreesanth”.

Sangakkara may miss Mathews, but he has two bowlers who are handy batsmen. Medium-pacer Thisara Perera, who is a hard-hitting lower-order batsman, and off-spinner Suraj Randiv, who is no mug with the bat, give depth to their batting.

The other two additions were medium-pacer Nuwan Kulasekara and one-day specialist Chamara Kapugedera, who was included to shore up the inconsistent middle order.

With Muttiah Muralitharan deciding to play despite not being fully fit, this may not be the only reason for including a second off-spinner. The lanky offie Randiv, who was been drafted into the squad only Friday, has done well in the limited opportunities he got, against India in particular. His omission from the original squad came as a surprise as 12 of his 23 ODI wickets in 21 games came against India in 13 matches on flat tracks.

Randiv was involved in a controversial no-ball incident in a one-dayer against India at Dambulla last August when he denied Virender Sehwag, who was on 99, his 13th ODI century.

Randiv was banned for one game and also docked the full match fee. Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is charged with egging Randiv to bowl the no-ball, was also fined his entire match fee.