Preview: Virat’s Team India Eye Semi-Final Spot in Clash vs SL
India face off against Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy in London on Thursday.
After carrying out a near flawless demolition of Pakistan, India will eye another dominant performance to seal a semi-final berth when they take on Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy at the Oval in London on Thursday.
Having pulverised Pakistan by 124 runs, India will start as overwhelming favourites against Sri Lanka, who looked in total disarray during their 96-run defeat at the hands of South Africa.
The only worry is the fickle London weather, with forecasts of 40 percent chance of heavy rainfall.
Contrasting performances aside, the sheer difference in quality also puts India a few notches ahead of the cricketers from the island nation.
On paper, the two sides are a total mismatch.
While India ticked almost all the boxes in their victory against Pakistan, the Sri Lankans, in their opening fixture, looked as if they have only entered the tournament to participate.
The winners of the last edition have a formidable batting line-up, which is being backed very well by a potent bowling attack.
And therein lies the problem with Sri Lanka, which is a side that is going through a rebuilding phase for the longest time now.
To make matters worse, the form and fitness of regular captain Angelo Mathews is a cause for concern, while senior opener Upul Tharanga's two-match suspension has added insult to injury.
Mathews missed Sri Lanka’s first match of the tournament due to a hamstring injury. And Tharanga has been suspended for over-rate offence. Sri Lanka needed more than four hours to bowl 50 overs in their match against South Africa.
It's two years since both Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara quit ODIs post the 2015 World Cup but Sri Lanka have not been able to single out even a couple of players, who can show steely resolve.
The likes of Dinesh Chandimal or Chamara Kapugedara have been around for some time but both have been guilty of not realising their full potential till date.
No wonder Sangakkara, in his column for the ICC, has made it clear that Sri Lanka need to show aggression against India while conceding that it may not be easy for them.
Playing in his final first-class season, Sangakkara has been in sublime form for Surrey with four centuries in county cricket.
For India, playing Sri Lanka before facing South Africa (on 11 June) is an advantage as they can go into the final group league game with a free mind.
Rohit Sharma hitting a 91 on comeback is a reassurance while Shikhar Dhawan's positive approach will keep the Men in Blue in good stead.
Skipper Virat Kohli has over the years been Sri Lanka's nemesis and the 81 not out against Pakistan, is just the tonic he needed before taking on the likes of Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep.
Yuvraj Singh was in vintage form at Edgbaston and a placid Oval pitch will only help get a few more runs under his belt.
Hardik Pandya's power hitting lower down the order and his ability to chip in with quick wickets makes this Indian side more intimidating.
The only thing that Virat Kohli would want now is Mahendra Singh Dhoni getting some batting time before the big game against South Africa.
Kohli promoting Pandya ahead of Dhoni is an indication that the skipper is looking to use his former captain more as an accumulator than as a finisher.
India's bowling unit has been sharp off late. Bhuvneshwar Kumar's controlled swing bowling, Umesh Yadav's fiery pace backed by Jasprit Bumrah's overs at the death have troubled oppositions.
Such has been the quality that bowlers of Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin's calibre warmed the bench during the match against Pakistan.
It is unlikely that Kohli would tinker with the winning combination although one feels for Ashwin, who is India's strike bowler in the red-ball format.
(With inputs from PTI)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.