India hope for turn of fortunes to stay alive in tri-series
Pushed to the brink of elimination, a demoralised India face an arduous task of beating Sri Lanka with a bonus point to have a remote chance of qualifying for the finals of the cricket tri-series when the two sides clash in Hobart on Tuesday.
India not only need a victory with a bonus point, but also an Australia victory over Sri Lanka in the last league match in Melbourne on March 2 to keep their chances alive in the series.
The odds are heavily staked against the beleaguered Indians, but teams have won with bonus points and India will hope that they do it on Tuesday or leave Australian shores with humiliation after the Test series whitewash.
A bonus point is earned when a team achieves a run-rate of 1.25 times than that of the opposition. A team's run-rate will be calculated with reference to the runs scored in an innings, divided by the numbers of overs faced.In essence, India need to chase down a target in 40 overs, or, while batting first, get the opposition out in the least number of overs as possible.
No hundred from Indians yet
A bonus point though looks a wild shot for a team dismissed in most of the matches and defeated by margins of 101, 51 and 87 runs in their last three outings.
No Indian has hit a hundred nor has the team managed a century partnership in the tournament; the highest score from their miserable batsmen on Sunday against Australia was a mere 23. There have been only eight partnerships of 50 or more. They lost four of their seven matches and tied one game.
It is too much to expect a hapless unit suddenly discover the potency of scores and bear the look of one that will give anything to get out of Australia on the next available flight.
Tendulkar has failed to fire
Sachin Tendulkar has just one innings -- if India is knocked out on Tuesday -- to fulfill his unfinished mission of scoring his 100th international century.
There was poignancy in the manner he was run-out in the last match and it was another instance when he was dismissed in an unexpected manner.
In the previous game, he shouldered arms to Nuwan Kulasekara, but the ball hit his willow and fell on the stumps.Virender Sehwag is unlikely to be replaced, but, going by his form, scoring big runs will be too much to expect for the opener.
Lot rests on in-form Dhoni, Pathan
Gautam Gambhir has sparkled all too briefly, and his two innings of 90s in Adelaide look a distant memory. Steep bouncers are still taking him by surprise.
Virat Kohli looks in control before he surprises everyone with sudden dismissals.
Rohit Sharma is now out of favour, and Suresh Raina, it seems, is now being played more for his outstanding fielding than ability with the bat.It leaves too much of a gaping hole for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the rest to fill even though Irfan Pathan was a delight in whatever time he spent in the middle.
Rahul Sharma could replace Jadeja
India's woes don't end with its batting. Zaheer Khan and Vinay Kumar are almost certain to be out of Tuesday's tie.
There's an outside chance that Rahul Sharma will be played in place of Ravindra Jadeja, who had a poor series with the ball -- only two wickets from seven matches, an average of 142.00 and an economy rate of 5.39 runs per over.
With the bat too, he has only 101 runs at 16.83.
Jayawardene's astute captaincy can send India packing
Sri Lanka are aware they can play safe and yet be in the finals. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene, for a change, can opt for defensive fields and yet smoke India out of the competition.
He himself is such a tower of strength as an opener and remarkably astute with his understanding of the situation and proactive captaincy.
It's also good enough time for Kumar Sangakkara to hit the straps. He's been getting regular scores in the 20s but rarely beyond.
Tillakaratne Dilshan too has a lot many 40s but hasn't been able to convert them into big scores.
Chandimal, Matthews have come good
Sri Lanka have been excellently served by 22-year-old Dinesh Chandimal who's the only batsman, besides David Hussey, to top the 300-run mark in the series. He has 306 runs to Hussey's 338 but has an innings advantage over the Australian middle-order batsman.
The two all-rounders, Thisara Perera and Angelo Matthews are also excellent with both bat and ball.
Fast bowler Ferveez Maharoof and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath have made late entry into the competition but have only added meat to the Lankan attack.
Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara have been excellent with the new ball. Malinga has taken nine wickets at an average of 33.66 and economy rate of 5.42.
Kulasekara has shown the knack of picking wickets and has seven scalps, at 34.85, and an economy rate of 4.43.
Excellent fielding by the Lankans
Lanka, to top it, are an excellent fielding unit. They have taken to Australian conditions well, in complete contrast to the Indians, who have spent nearly three months and are yet to find their feet Down Under.
Brief showers are predicted on Tuesday, though all in the morning. India want nothing but sunshine to manage a miracle.
The Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Praveen Kumar.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Angelo Matthews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Ferveez Maharoof and Upul Tharanga.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and Simon Taufel (Aus)
Third umpire: Simon Fry (Aus)
Match referee: Chris Broad (Eng)Match starts at 8.50 am (IST).