Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chance for India's ODI specialists to acclimatise

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina at practice on the eve of the warm-up match against Sri Lankan XI.

India's one-day specialists have one opportunity to acclimatise to conditions before the five-ODI series and the team management faces selection headaches ahead of Friday's warm-up match against a Sri Lankan XI in Colombo. The momentum is with Sri Lanka, who won the Test series 2-1, while the Indians are still grappling with methods to handle Ajantha Mendis, who took 26 wickets in three Tests and a six-wicket haul in the recent Asia Cup final against India.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who joined the squad on Wednesday, said he was not going to talk about the Test series, which he opted out of, but on how his ODI side would tackle whatever came their way. India's one-day squad has two uncapped players - Subramaniam Badrinath, the Tamil Nadu batsman, and Virat Kohli, who led India to victory in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year - and Dhoni stressed on the importance of youngsters stepping in to fill the breach left by Sachin Tendulkar's absence.

It's likely that Badrinath and Kohli will be competing for a spot as the batting order picks itself. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will continue their partnership at the top, followed by Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma. Dhoni will bat at No. 6, leaving the next spot for Badrinath, Kohli, or an allrounder.

India are without fast bowler Ishant Sharma for this series and their pace options include Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan. Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha are the only two spinners in the squad. The warm-up match gives India the chance to test Ojha, RP and Munaf, neither of whom played in the Test series but choosing between Kumar and Pathan is tougher.

The bowling attack is likely to comprise three medium-pacers and one spinner. With Zaheer virtually certain to play, the other four - RP, Munaf, Kumar and Pathan - will compete for two spots and performances in the warm-up match could decide who plays. Harbhajan could be the lone spinner which means India will have to consider getting ten overs out of part-timers Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag on helpful pitches.

India's last one-day international was the 100-run defeat in Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka. Sanath Jayasuriya scored 125 before Mendis snuffed out India's chase by taking 6 for 13. Neither of them will be playing the warm-up game but they will be an intergral part of the challenge that awaits India in Dambulla, a notoriously low-scoring venue, on August 18.


Sri Lanka XI: (probable) 1 Malinda Warnapura, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Mahela Udawatte, 4 Jehan Mubarak, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Chamara Kapugedera (capt), 7 Kaushal Silva (wk), 8 Kaushalya Weerarante, 9 Malinga Bandara, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Thilan Thushara.

Indians: (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 S Badrinath 8 Irfan Pathan 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 RP Singh, 11 Munaf Patel.