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India meet Sri Lanka at Wankhede for the first time after 2011 WC final

Last updated on 01 Nov 2023 | 02:24 PM
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India meet Sri Lanka at Wankhede for the first time after 2011 WC final

India have been a juggernaut at this World Cup, meanwhile, Sri Lanka have been anything but that, struggling with injuries and form

2 April 2011

12 years and 10 months have passed since that day. Most of us will forget our partners and friends' birthdays. But we’ll not forget that day when AR Rahman’s Vande Mataram echoed out of Wankhede and reverberated from Gujarat to Arunachal and Kashmir to Kanyakumari. 

It’s a rematch at the Wankhede as India and Sri Lanka meet again at the fabled ground in an ODI for the first time since that day. It’s still a World Cup game; however, it’s no final. It’s not even a knockout. To be honest, it’s not even an equal contest, considering the way India and Sri Lanka have been playing. 

India has won six out of six games, and their juggernaut is mercilessly crushing teams and have all but confirmed their spot in the semi-finals. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are sixth on the points table and have won only two out of their six games. In the last game, an Afghanistan team on the ascend pulverised them by seven wickets. They need to win all their games from here on and have some other results go in their favour to make the top four. 

They have been plagued by one injury after the other in the bowling department, depleting what was touted as their biggest strength. 

As a result, their spinners have the worst average in this World Cup. If not for the brilliant returns of Dilshan Madushanka, their pacers would have had similar numbers as the likes of Lahiru Kumara and Pathirana are all out injured. 

For India, this would be a game where they would look to close the small cracks that still exist in their batting. 

Afflicted by a dengue bout, Shubman Gill hasn’t looked his fluent best in this World Cup. He has scored only 104 runs in four games and has been dismissed twice by the ball moving into his body at the World Cup. However, like most Indian batters, he has a good record against the Lankans. 

The other obvious case is Shreyas Iyer, and he’ll be in focus in tomorrow’s clash. 

In Focus 

India’s batting going guns, but Iyer perturbed by the “short ball” ghost

Collectively, Indian batting has the highest average for a batting unit this World Cup - 53. In powerplays, they have the second-highest run rate and are the best against spin by a huge margin (averaging 28.8 more than the second-best New Zealand). 

However, Shreyas Iyer’s story is like a gritty Gangs of Wasseypur in the universe of K3G that is the Indian batting. As India moves towards the knockouts, there are legitimate concerns about his fitting in the Indian XI. The opportunity cost of playing him doesn’t feel as completely justified as before the World Cup. 

Also read - India are flying, but Shreyas Iyer is skating on thin ice

There are three major reasons behind it. 

One, he’s been a major culprit in Indian collapses. He walked in when India were 1 for 2 against Australia and got out playing an uppish drive. Against England, he was in a relatively low-pressure situation but threw away his wicket trying to pull a shot on the wrong line on a slow track. 

Two, in his career, he averages just 35.78 against pace as compared to 79 against spin. In this World Cup, he’s averaging just 20.33 against quick bowling. India is not playing its remaining games on tracks where spin would dominate. It brings his value down for those games. 

Three, KL Rahul is doing much better in tricky situations than him. He has not only resisted collapses but is being dismissed only after 135.5 balls this World Cup, the highest for India. Meanwhile, Iyer is getting out every 39.5 balls. He is doing Iyer’s role better than Iyer. Hence, with Suryakumar Yadav scoring runs fluently at six, a case can be made of KL batting at four and Hardik batting at five when he returns. 

Sri Lanka’s opening problem 

The Lankan opening partnerships have been woebegone this World Cup. Apart from a 125-run stand between Kusal Perera and Pathum Nissanka vs Australia, their openers haven’t even crossed 25 in the remaining five innings. They have the third lowest average for opening pairs this World Cup - 30, after Netherlands and Bangladesh. 

Pathum Nissanka has been very good with the bat and has been the only batter apart from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill to score 1000+ runs in ODIs this year. Even in this World Cup, he has four fifties in six games and has the highest balls-per-dismissal ratio amongst all openers. 

However, his opening partners –  Kusal Perera in the first five games and Dimuth Karunaratne in the last –  have been well below par, hence the bad partnerships. It hasn’t helped that after scoring 198 runs in the first two games this World Cup, Kusal Mendis –  Sri Lanka’s number three –  has only scored 70 runs in the last four. 

This has meant that Sri Lanka have been two down too early, and then Sadeera Samarawickrama has to come and build the innings from almost scratch. 

Venue and Conditions 

The Wankhede is a batting heaven, as South Africa have shown by scoring 399 and 382 the two times they have batted here. So, expect a lot of runs tomorrow as well. As far as the toss is concerned, South Africa batted first in both games and won comfortably against meek England and Bangladesh. However, this doesn’t mean teams batting first have some extra advantage here. Since 2020, teams batting first and second have won two ODIs each. 

Apart from that, pacers enjoy bowling at the Wankhede as there’s always good bounce and carry on the surface. For spinners, there hasn’t been any great assistance visible. 

Tactical Insights

> Rohit has been a behemoth as an opener this World Cup, showing his aggression and adaptive abilities. However, if one looks at his numbers historically against Sri Lanka, he has been an absolute giant. He has scored the second most runs against Sri Lanka when you look at his records vs different teams. He has six hundreds against them - the most for a batter against Sri Lanka in ODIs. 

If you are into making fantasy teams, close your eyes and make him your captain. 

> Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews have contrasting recourse against India. 

Mendis has scored only 219 runs in 11 innings against India with an average of 19.9. Add to that his misery against spin this World Cup - he averages only 25.7 against spin as compared to 63.7 against pace - and you now have a batter who’ll be under serious pressure against the Indian spinners tomorrow, who have been the most economical this tournament. 

Meanwhile, Angelo Mathews loves India like Kannadigas love jaggery in their Sambhar. He is the only batter for Sri Lanka with a 50+ average (53.6 to be exact) against India in ODIs. The next best is Kumar Sangakkara, with 39.7. In fact, he has only three hundreds in ODIs, and all of them have been against the Men In Blue. Most of you would remember his century in the 2019 World Cup against India. 

> Dilshan Madushanka has led the Sri Lankan bowling unit this World Cup despite playing just 12 ODIs. He will be crucial for the Lankans tomorrow as he is brilliant against right-handed batters, having picked 11 wickets in six games with an average of 21.5 against them - the joint most wickets along with Jasprit Bumrah. India has six righties in the top seven. 

Probable XI :

Sri Lanka don’t have any new injury news and should look to play the same XI they played against Afghanistan. There’s no need to bring an extra spinner, considering Wankhede’s pace bias and the dwindling returns of their spin bowlers. 

Sri Lanka Probable XI - Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis (c&wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka 

Hardik Pandya is still out injured for India, and with no new injuries, India would look to play the same XI. Replacing Shreyas Iyer with Ishan Kishan could be an option, but the Indian team management hasn’t been known to make changes in personnel so readily. They’ll also like to allow out-of-form Siraj to come back in touch against the same opponents he picked a six-fer not so long ago. 

Indian Probable XI - Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj

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