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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Report

'Harbhajan should replace Kumble'

March 22, 2007 23:06 IST

For India, it is a do or die situation against Sri Lanka on Friday. India face the tough task of having to beat a rampant Sri Lanka in their final Group match if they are to avoid being knocked out in the first round.

An Indian defeat would allow Bangladesh to advance that is if they manage to beat Bermuda on Sunday.

Sri Lanka enjoy a 3-2 win-loss record against India in World Cup matches, but India have won their last two meetings in 1999 and in 2003, where they went on to reach the final.

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene is keen to settle the score with India after his team's recent 3-1 series defeat in the one-day series in India. On the other hand, Indian coach Greg Chappell has urged his players to overcome their fear of failure and give their best.

We have with us our expert Kiran More, former India wicketkeeper and chief selector, who will preview this big match.

'If Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumara Sangakkara get out early I think it will put a lot of pressure on Sri Lanka,' he told Special Correspondent Harish Kotian.


On paper Sri Lanka look the favourites. What makes them such a dangerous side?

They are a very solid team. They have got a good balance of fast bowlers and spinners. Sanath Jayasuriya bowls and Muttiah Muralitharan is one of the top spinners in the world.

And in their batting if Jayasuriya starts getting runs, it becomes one of the most dangerous sides against any opposition in the world. If Jayasuriya and Kumara Sangakkara get out early I think it will put a lot of pressure on their remaining batsmen, who I feel are suspect under pressure. There is a chance of a collapse then which has happened previously like in the one-day series in India.

I think if any two batsman between Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene get out early, then it will put a lot of pressure on the third batsman. I think that is the weak point for Sri Lanka. Otherwise they are a very solid team in fielding, bowling and batting as well.

India has always done well against Sri Lanka. In the last one-day series [last year] we beat them and Muralitharan was not in their side. But in the previous one-day series in India, Murali was playing but we won the series 6-1.

Jayasuriya looks in top form at the moment after his blazing century against Bermuda. He is one of the key players for Sri Lanka. How do you try and stop the dangerous Jayasuriya?

He takes his chances. Look at his performance in the last few matches against India, he has not done well. So he will be looking to prove his batting against India and there will be some amount of pressure on him.

The key here is how the Indian bowlers bowl to Jayasuriya. Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel have done well against him. If we get him out early, it will be a different situation altogether for Sri Lanka. Once Jayasuriya or Sangakkara or both the batsmen get out early, it puts a lot of pressure on the middle order, which I believe is not as strong as it looks.

Many believe that Sri Lankan bowling attack has the variety to trouble any side in this World Cup. Chamida Vaas, Lasith Maling and Muttiah Muralitharan have looked very impressive so far. How do the Indian batsmen tackle their bowlers?

India are used to facing these three bowlers. A lot of batsmen around the world have struggled against Malinga and Muralitharan, but our Indian batsmen have done much better against Sri Lankan bowlers.

It all depends on how the wicket plays tomorrow. I hope we get the wicket that we got in the last two matches here [in Trinidad]. The ball was coming on to the bat nicely and it was not like a typical Trinidad wicket, where the balls stops and keeps low.

I think it looks a good one-day wicket. If we get a good true wicket it will be an interesting match. We need to get around 275 runs on the board, which will put pressure on Sri Lanka.

India face some dilemma with their selection. Could they try bringing in Irfan Pathan in place of a bowler or a batsman to lend some balance?

The one major weakness in the Indian bowling attack is that they don't have a fifth bowler, who is a regular bowler. Irfan Pathan, who is not in good form, is a drawback for India. He is not looking at his best in the bowling department; his batting is a plus point for the team.

If he is picked and he bowls well then it will be a big plus for the team. I doubt India will make any changes in their team. I feel they will still continue with Robin Uthappa as the opening batsman and the same bowling combination. They will go in with three fast bowlers and one spinner, because we need to have depth in batting also.

I feel we will go in with the same batting line-up, with Virender Sehwag coming at number three.

There is a good chance of Harbhajan Singh playing tomorrow because Sri Lanka have around four left-handers in their team. If given a choice I think we should play Harbhajan in place of Anil Kumble.

Kumble, no doubt, did well against Bermuda, but with three left-handers at the top of the order and Chaminda Vaas to follow, we must play Harbhajan because they will find it difficult to play the outgoing deliveries.

It will be vital to take wickets in the middle overs and if Harbhajan plays tomorrow, I hope he can take some wickets. Lately, we have seen our fast bowlers taking a couple of wickets at the start, but we have not seen them taking four or five wickets in a match. That is what we will need tomorrow. I hope any of the fast bowler takes three or four wickets in his first spell and then comes back to complete his five-wicket haul. That will definitely help us win the match.

The Cup: The Complete Coverage

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