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India look to plug loopholes under Sehwag

By Bikash Mohapatra
Last updated on: December 20, 2009 21:24 IST
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Virender SehwagIt is all square as India and Sri Lanka prepare to battle it out in the third One-day International at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Monday.

What was initially perceived as a cakewalk for the home team, especially considering the injury list of the visitors is ever-increasing, and they were whipped in the Tests and not allowed to celebrate their T20 success (at Mohali), now has the makings of a see-saw contest, which will go right down to the wire.

India, having posted 414 runs batting first in the first ODI at Rajkot, had hoped to get series off to a rollicking start.

But the fact that the Sri Lankans remained undaunted by the magnitude of the total and almost made it gave them the confidence, which helped them execute their plan to perfection in the second ODI at Nagpur, the visitors' come from behind three-wicket win nullifying whatever advantage the hosts' might have had.

And going into the third match, it's a cup of woes for both the teams.

While the hosts will be sans skipper MS Dhoni – thanks to their slow over rate at Nagpur, the visitors witnessed in-form all-rounder Angelo Mathews' name added to the injury list.

With Mathews out for the rest of the series, Sri Lanka's already depleted bowling attack – that lacked Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando – suffered futher.

Considering the fact that their bowlers have let the home team score huge totals in both the opening matches, it is indeed a worry for the Indian think-tank.

What assuages them, however, is their batting form. The Sri Lankan batsmen have returned compliments hitting the Indian bowlers all over the park.

And the curator at Barabati, Pankaj Patnaik, has probably kept the batting form of both the teams in mind while making the wicket, which he assures will be another belter.

No wonder both the captains were ecstatic after initial examination.

"Looks like a good track to bat on," observed India's stand-in captain Virender Sehwag. "Luckily both the teams are batting well and have their batsmen in good form," he added.

Kumar Sangakkara, his Sri Lankan counterpart, concurred. "The wickets look pretty good to play on," he said, adding, "I hope our batsmen keep playing the way they have been so far."

As regards to the team compositions, the Sri Lankan playing XI is still uncertain with pacer Lasith Malinga's inclusion though vetran Sanath Jayasuriya is expected to be back after being dropped in Nagpur. Uncapped Thissara Perera has been drafted on as a replacement for Mathews.   

The Indians will have Dinesh Karthik in place of MS Dhoni and in all likelihood, Yuvraj Singh, replacing Virat Kohli.

Yuvraj, who missed the first two ODIs with a broken finger, seemed back to full fitness at the nets. "He's fit," admitted Sehwag, albeit stopping short of mentioning him as a certainty.

"We will take a decision on the team composition tomorrow," he said.

The skipper was, however, more forthcoming about India's possible decisions at the toss.

"We will observe the dew factor tonight. If there's dew on the wicket, we bowl first tomorrow," he explained, before adding, "Else we bat first and try scoring heavily."

Historically, Barabati has been a favourable venue for India, the home team having won eight of the 12 matches it has played, including the last two.

However, the visitors can take heart from the fact that they won the lone contest between the sides on this ground before — having beaten India by 36 runs in the Asia Cup in December 1990.


India: Virender Sehwag (c), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Sudeep Tyagi, Virat Kohli.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, Upul Tharanga, Chanaka Welegedara, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Suraj Randiv, Thissara Perera.

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