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'Jayasuriya's injury is a big blow'

By Barry Richards
March 10, 2003 11:37 IST
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The possible non-availability of captain Sanath Jayasuriya will be a big blow for Sri Lanka as they gear up to take on neighbours India in the second of their Super Six matches Monday.

The Lankans have gone off the boil a little, and in the likely absence of Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu will be the key. He has been playing very well over the last few months, and along with Aravinda de Silva is the only in-form batsman in the Lankan side.

Mahela Jayawardene, Kumara Sangakkara, Russel Arnold and Hashan Tilakkratne have not been among the runs right through the tournament, certainly a cause for concern for Dav Whatmore and co. Under such circumstances, I guess Jayasuriya will play even if he can just about hold a bat.

For me the true danger for India comes in the form of Aravinda de Silva. This is his last World Cup, and he has an air of quiet determination about him. He seems to have decided to go out of the game on a high, and I think he has one great innings left in him. If that comes up against India, they are in for trouble.

The Lankans will take some heart from the off-colour show India put up at Newlands against Kenya. What was to have been a Rolls Royce performance by Ganguly's boys turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. The Indians were found wanting in all departments of the game. The fielding was very, very ordinary and certainly not up to World Cup standards.As far as the batting is concerned, some panic did set in before Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh did the needful to get their team over the rope.

This business about batting under lights seems to have frightened just about everybody in the tournament. I think too much is being made of it, and even in Cape Town, the ball was not exactly whizzing around as the Indians would like us to believe.

The ball acts differently under lights maximum in East London, to a certain extent in Newlands and very occasionally in Durban. Unless conditions are very overcast, I don't see the toss playing a very big role in the semifinals there.

The Indians might just be getting a little worried about their under-achieving opener Virender Sehwag. He has always had trouble on bouncy wickets, and like most subcontinent batsmen, likes it knee-high.

I feel for youngsters like him, who have the talent, but no exposure to bouncy wickets till they are representing their country. I feel even sorrier for the bowlers who have to operate on such wickets. Might as well have a bowling machine to feed the batsmen with deliveries instead of putting hapless youngsters through such torture. I can see the difference in Ashish Nehra. He is just loving these conditions, and looks a happier man than when I saw him last.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India makes so much money out of this game that they should concentrate on all aspects. They can easily create conditions to produce pace bowlers, and till they do this, India's bowling will always be a poor second to its immense batting depth.

Coming back to Monday's game, I would not worry too much about Chaminda Vaas. He got a bagful of wickets when his side was playing the minnows. Apart from that, the only good game he has was against the West Indies. The Wanderers wicket is the flattest I have seen at this venue, much like all the wickets that have been custom-made for this tournament. I don't think he will make much of an impact unless conditions get a little overcast.

I am writing this from Johannesburg, and I must add that the weather has been gloriously sunny for the last two days, so there is no chance of clouds, rain or that dreaded piece of paper with the Duckworth-Lewis table marring proceedings.


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Barry Richards