A day’s break later, India returns to Dubai’s International Stadium for their Super 4 tie against Sri Lanka. The teams arrive in contrasting moods- the Lankans buoyant after a fine run-chase against Afghanistan, India a tad surly from the narrow loss to Pakistan. Another defeat will see India at the exit door, a fate Rohit Sharma & Co. are desperate to avoid. But the Islanders are formidable opponents. Knocking out arch-rivals Bangladesh from the Asia Cup, Dasun Shanaka’s men followed by exacting revenge on the Afghans for their group stage humiliation.
It’s fair to say that the Lankans have been playing with a modicum of angst. Pitted against Bangladesh, a feisty win added another chapter to their bubbling animosity. The comfortable win against Afghanistan proved that the Bangladesh win wasn’t a one-off. On both occasions, they rode their luck: Reviews not taken, catches dropped, etc. Another tonight, and they’ve one foot in the finals. A tightly-woven unit, the team’s strength lies in their batting unit. Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga make a mean set of willow wielders. The bowlers usually go for runs, but Hasaranga’s leg breaks and Maheesh Theekshana’s off-spin might help stem the flow.
In the other camp, India will draw positives from their Sunday loss to Pakistan. The breakneck start by the openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul was in keeping with the ultra-aggressive approach the team has adopted. It went awry as the innings progressed, only held together by Virat Kohli’s smartly compiled 60 (off 44 balls). The star batter’s return to form bodes well for the team. A calmer, fitter, happier Kohli is a boon to any side, as the man himself has admitted. But given how he’s adopted the anchorman role, a more sustained hitter is required at the other end. Suryakumar Yadav delivered against Hong Kong but faltered against Pakistan, as did Hardik Pandya- with bat and ball. Rishabh Pant’s indifferent stay in the crease might provoke Dinesh Karthik’s return.
The bowling, however, remains erratic. For all talk of inexperience, the tyros held their nerve against Pakistan. Ravi Bishnoi was tight with his line and intelligent with his variations. Arshdeep Singh- dropped catch aside– was similarly nerveless, throwing down a far better final over than we give him acclaim. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s expensive 19th over tipped the scales, while Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal were costly, conceding 87 runs from their eight overs. Does this warrant Ravi Ashwin a place in the XI? Only time will tell.