Sri Lanka will be hard to beat

By Sa'adi Thawfeeq

19 June 1998

World Cup champions Sri Lanka will attempt to become the first nation hosting a cricket tournament to celebrate its Fiftieth Year of Independence to win a title, when it meets India in the lung-opener of the Singer-Akai Nidahas trophy triangular at the R. Premadasa Stadium unde rlights at 2.30 pm today.

The three Asian neighbours who previously hosted their Independence Cup tournaments failed to win the final. India's Cup in May last year was won by Sri Lanka, Pakistan's Cup in November that year went to South Africa, and Bangladesh's Cup held in January this year was won by India.

Sri Lanka still retain seven members from their World Cup winning team of two years ago with Arjuna Ranatunga continuing to command the respect of his players.

Missing from Sri Lanka's 14 are Chaminda Vaas who is injured, Asanka Gurusinha who has retired and Hashan Tillekeratne and Ravindra Pushpakumara, who are not one-day material.

Batsmen Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene and Avishka Gunawardana, uncapped fast bowler Suresh Perera and left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratilake have been drafted in to fill the vacancies.

With the current batting form shown by wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana, he is likely to open the batting with Sanath Jayasuriya with Atapattu comming at No. 3 and relegating Jayewardene to the number six or seven position. Jayewardene batted with great success at No. 3 in the Test series against New Zealand averaging 60. The return of Roshan Mahanama overlooed for the Test series, gives Sri Lanka's batting which is their forte, depth till No. 7.

With Promodya Wickremasinghe, Kumara Dharmasena and Muthiah Muralitharan taking up the next three positions, the final place will be a toss up between Perera and Bandaratilake, both of whom have yet to appear in a one-day international.

The reappointment of Aravinda de Silva as Ranatunga's deputy, after a short break in the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand, is seen as an important move to enable the two most experienced cricketers to plan strategy together along with coach Roy Dias and manager Ranjith Fernando. It was quite conspicious during the New Zealand series that De Silva was unhappy when he was relegated to a position of just another member of the team.

From what they have seen of Jayasuriya, the national selectors have identified him as a future captain and it is very likely that he maybe reinstated again as Ranatunga's deputy in the near future.

Sri Lanka have a lot at stake to win this tournament, having failed to win their last two one-day competitions - finishing runner-up to South Africa in Pakistan and failing toqualify for the final in South Africa's triangular series.

However, the world champions have proved to be tough opponents to beat at home, having won both tournaments conducted after the World Cup the Singer World Series in 1996 and the Pepsi Asia Cup last year.

India on the other hand have gone from strength to strength after winning the Independence Cup in Bangladesh in January this year under reinstanted captain Mohammad Azharuddin. That win arrested the plummeting image of India's cricketing heritage and they have not looked back since, winning two successive tournaments in Sharjah and at home.

The key figure in India's successes has been former captain Sachin Tendulkar, who has shown ominous form with the bat that Australia's one-day captain Steve Waugh has ranked him behind the great Sir Donald Bradman. Unless Sri Lanka can pick Tendulkar's wicket early, they are not going to find things to their own liking. Although coach Anshuman Gaekwad has said it is team work that contributes to India's success, Tendulkar is one man who can change the course of a match with his bat.

An opening ceremony commencing at 1 p.m. will feature a cricket song among other things. Speaker K. B. Ratnayake will grace the occasion as the chief guest. New Zealand are the third team in the three-week long tournament which will feature nine qualifying round matches with the top two sides going through to play in the final under lights at the same venue on August 7.

The teams:

SRI LANKA (from): Arjuna Ranatunga (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Marvan Atapattu, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Roshan Mahanama, Kumara Dharmasena, Promodya Wickremasinghe, Muthiah Muralitharan, Suresh Perera, Niroshan Bandaratilake, Avishka Gunawardana, Upul Chandana.

INDIA (from): Mohammad Azaharuddin (captain), Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Nayan Mongia, Ajay Jadeja, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Robin Singh, Anil Kumblee, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Harbhajan Singh, Debasis Mohanty, Rahul Sanghvi, Gagan Khoda.

UMPIRES: K. T. Francis and P. Manuel
TV umpire: B. C. Cooray
Match Referee:Cammie Smith

Source: The Daily News

Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 19 Jun1998 - 06:32