If the form of the Kiwis is an indication, then they are here to make up the numbers and the Akai Singer Nidhas trophy final should be a India-Sri Lanka affair on July 7.
The Sri Lankans gave a most inept performance against India and probably suffered one of their worst one-day defeats by 8 wickets which was unacceptable considering that they are the world champions in the one-day flings.
The Indians under the competent leadership of Mohammed Azharuddin are a side well versed in every aspect in this style of cricket. If they continue as they did then they are going to be a side that will be concerned at the finish at the next world cup.
This column always advocated the bringing back of Azharuddin as captain. He was stripped of this high office for no fault of his. But he continued to be the team man that he is known to be and ungrudgingly served under Tendulkar who was thrown to the wolves too early in his career.
With Tendulkar at the helm the Indians were finding it difficult to strike the winning formula. Their losses were mounting and Azharuddin's coming back was only a matter of time.
When Tendulkar was marshalling the Indian forces not only were the Indians suffering defeat, Tendulkar too found his batting touch deserting him.
Once Azharuddin got back, not only did the Indians get back their winning ways, 'Azhar' too began to find the run trail and runs began to flow from his bat. Tendulkar too who was not scoring, suddenly began to unfold and runs are now cascading from his bat so much so that he is being hailed as another Bradman.
We are sure Tendulkar is aware that there will never be another Bradman, and never another Tendulkar. He must not let the Bradman mania go to his head but continue to perform in the magical way he is now performing and that is scoring tons of runs.
The other night these two master batsmen - Azharuddin and Tendulkar took the Lankan attack apart with some excellent batting which left the fielders standing. They were a treat out in the middle and although the Lankan bowlers and fielders will not want them to score, the Lankan spectators are yearning to see them produce their batting magic.
Saurav Ganguly is another batsman who is strongly challenging to join the batting greats. He has a good eye with strokes allround the wicket and his timing too is sweet. He too should score a lot of runs on this tour.
As for the Lankans they failed to click against the Indians. There was nothing that they did that was admirable or in keeping with their world champions tag. They were looking journeymen. The bowlers, other than for Muralitheran in their over anxiety were bowling 'no where' deliveries and the Indian batsmen were latching on to them sending them along the ground to the ropes or over it as they pleased.
Coach Roy Dias would certainly have been hard on them at the nets and this was evident in the game against the Kiwis where they looked a much improved side. It is hoped that they will continue to improve as the tourney gathers momentum and finally grab the glittering Akai Nidhas trophy.
After the test series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka the wickets prepared in Galle and the SSC seems to have come in for unwanted criticism. It must be understood that when playing at home Sri Lanka must be unbeatable. They must make use of the home advantage and be able to beat all visiting sides. This is the form in every test playing nation and Sri Lanka need not be different.
The wickets that were prepared took spin from the very first day. That Sri Lanka was going to get their spinners to do the bidding for them was obvious. The Kiwis sensing this also brought with them three spinners. But while the local spinners revelled on the wickets, the Kiwi spinners were found wanting.
Those who ordered the preparation of spinners wickets cannot be faulted!