India face high riding Sri Lanka in do-or-die battle


India would need to get the best out of their thin bowling resources and avoid too much experimentation when they clash with high riding Sri Lanka in their must win Super 4 game in the Asia Cup on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka will walk into this game after settling their score with Afghanistan in the first fixture of the Super 4. The Lankans didn’t have an ideal start to their Asia Cup 2022 campaign, which commenced with a defeat, but the team has certainly bounced back with two consecutive victories.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa could be the X-factor for the Island nation with his exploits with the bat at a crucial stage of the game. A victory on Tuesday will help them retain the top spot on the points table. The five-time Asia Cup champions will have to outdo themselves to outplay the star-studded Indian team.

Barring number three Charith Asalanka, Sri Lanka batters have made an impact, whether it was skipper Dasun Shanaka and Kusal Mendis against Bangladesh or Danushka Gunathilaka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa against Afghanistan.

The Chris Silverwood coached side now has the belief that it can win from any situation. It is a developing squad and India will be wary of them. Another loss will eliminate India from the final race.

On the other hand, the Indian team will be heading into this game within 48 hours of its last-over defeat against Pakistan. India had the Sunday game in their grasp after the wicket of two well-set batters at a crucial moment, but a dropped catch and leakage of runs at the death cost them the game.

Skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid will assess the mistakes from the previous game and improve in the upcoming match. The maturity of Ravi Bishnoi was the silver lining in the team’s bowling.

In the absence of injured Ravindra Jadeja, Harshal Patel and Jasprit Bumrah, India do not have a lot of options to play with in the bowling department.

India went in with five bowling options against Pakistan on Sunday and it did not work out in their favour as Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a rare off day.

After a match-winning effort in the opening game against Pakistan, Hardik Pandya proved expensive and so was Yuzvendra Chahal, who has not at been his best in the tournament.

The five-bowler theory also makes Hardik’s four overs more critical. Axar Patel, who is a like for like replacement for Jadeja, can be brought into the playing eleven to lend more balance. Avesh Khan, who was unwell ahead of the Pakistan clash, can also come back as the third specialist pacer.

While Rahul Dravid stressed that India would be looking to play their best eleven in the lead up to the World Cup, the Rohit Sharma-led side continues to experiment.

With the intense debate over Rishabh Pant versus Dinesh Karthik in the team, the management gave a go to Deepak Hooda at the expense of the Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper-batter, who hardly got to bat in the first two games.

The bowling resources may not be enough at the moment, but India need to decide quickly on their middle-order.

The biggest positive out of the Pakistan game was the performance of the high-profile top-order. All three – Rohit, K L Rahul and Virat Kohli – showed a lot of aggression and gave India an electric start.

Kohli’s critics can finally rest after his second successive half-century in the Asia Cup. He may not be back to his best but he gave enough signs on Sunday that he is getting there.

One can expect Kohli and two openers to go all guns blazing against Sri Lanka from ball one.