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India looking too strong for Sri Lanka

By Greg Chappell
March 09, 2003 20:38 IST
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Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore was quoted recently as saying that he didn't believe anyone could beat the powerful Australian team in this World Cup. I wonder if he believes his team can defeat India Monday.

Sri Lanka has had some success with the bat in this tournament with Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Attapatu and Aravinda de Silva leading the way but, apart from Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan bowling has been below par and the fielding has been lacklustre.

They don't look to me like a team that wants to win the Cup, let alone believes it can. The trouble is, the Sri Lankans are mercurial and can be playing poorly one day and look like world beaters the next day. Their cricket is instinctive and when the instincts are right, and are followed, there are few teams in the world who can match them.

India is one team who can match them because they also play best when they follow their instincts.

Either of these two teams are capable of beating Australia provided they don't beat themselves first.

The Australians are well drilled and play with a great deal of passion based upon some well thought out game plans. I don't think either India or Sri Lanka can match Australia if they try to play them at their structured game. They need to take the Australians on by playing their own instinctive style of cricket.

They might as well practice against each other!

India does tend to rely on Sachin Tendulkar a great deal and he is one of the most instinctive players the game has seen. He tends to assume the responsibility of taking on the opposition in an aggressive fashion and he also targets the opponents' main bowler, or bowlers, and takes the challenge straight to them.

He has already done it in this tournament against the Pakistan pacemen with devastatingly positive results. I have seen him do it successfully before against Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq and he has taken on Shane Warne to lead India to victories against Australia in India. He will be keen to take it up to Vaas and Muralitharan in Monday's contest and the winner could take the spoils.

Sri Lanka has two champions of their own in Jayasuriya and de Silva and they have both been in good form so far in the World Cup. They are not usually as devastating as Tendulkar can be although they are capable of destroying any type of attack if the conditions are right.

Jayasuriya's fitness is important to Sri Lanka. He will be keen to play if possible and does have two other important roles to play -- as captain and as one of their front line bowlers. He is just as important in these roles as he is with the bat.

Sanath's leadership is, like him, understated and positive while his bowling is, unlike the man, sneaky and, often, under-rated. He has turned many a game with guile and subtlety with his left arm tweakers. Along with de Silva, Jayasuriya has unhinged many opposition teams with their canny overs in the middle stages of an innings.

He will be sorely missed for his astute leadership if his bruised left arm or fractured thumb prevents him from playing.

Both coaches will want their charges to keep the gameplan simple. They will want the bowlers to bowl as few bad balls as possible so the opposition batsman will have to take risks to make big scores. They will also want the fielders to make a commitment to support the bowlers.

From a batting perspective they will want the rest of the batting line up to support the top guns. Partnerships are still an important part of one-day cricket and need to have clearly defined roles. The support person is no less important than the leading man. Without strike the good players can become frustrated and make fatal mistakes and this, in turn, can build pressure on the remaining batsmen.

As Michael Bevan has shown so admirably so often, you do not have to be hitting boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Deft placement combined with positive and energetic running can tear the heart out of the opposition just as effectively.

Whichever team can combine these basic cricket skills most effectively Monday will do much toward booking a final spot, most likely with Australia, for March 23. Alternatively, one of the super-stars can just pound the opposition attack into submission and be done with it.

A good team performance though will do more for the winning team's hopes come March 23 at the Wanderers Stadium.


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Greg Chappell