Australia begin life without two-time World Cup winning former captain Ricky Ponting in the ODI format,aiming to consolidate their position at the top of the points table when they take on a spirited Sri Lanka in their tri-series league clash here tomorrow.
Adopting a perform or perish policy,Australia dropped an out-of-form Ponting from the squad despite his massive reputation and the record of being the country’s top run-getter in the one-day format with 13,704 runs second only to Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time list.
The Australians sit atop the table with 14 points after winning three out of their five matches. The Lankans are three points adrift after a couple of wins,equal number of losses and a tie from their five games so far.
Head to head,both the teams have beaten each other once in the competition and with India struggling to stay afloat,they could be the eventual finalists as well.
On the face of it,Australia can be termed favourites because of the home advantage but given how the Sri Lankans have adapted and exploited the conditions to their advantage is also hard to ignore.
The islanders have been unexpectedly tough and have not gone without a fight even in matches they have lost.
Against India in their previous match,the Lankan batting order gave a good account of itself and their bowlers were bang on target when it came to extracting the best out of a friendly track. The result was a comprehensive win which has given them a real chance of making the finals.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene has led a sprightly group well ably backed by a line-up which may not boast of too many heavyweights barring the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga,but has shown the spunk to punch above its weight. At that time,it was Poland which denied India a semifinal berth after restricting them to a 1-1 draw in the league stage and the hosts would be desperate to avoid another humiliation at the hands of the same opponent.
After easy outings against Singapore,Italy and France,the Indians had to work hard for the 3-2 win over Canada last night.
Unlike previous matches,there were no easy goals for the Indians as the forwards found it tough to make inroads into the rival circle.
They also lacked in finishing and were made to toil hard for goals by the resolute Canadian defense.
India coach Michael Nobbs also admitted that finishing remains a concern for him.
“We were pushing through a little and did not finish as well as we wanted,” he had said after the Canada match.
There is also uncertainty over promising striker Yuvraj Walmiki’s further participation in the tournament after he did not play against Canada because of a hamstring pull.
But the good thing for India is that ace dragflicker Sandeep Singh and S V Sunil are in rollicking form in the tournament.
After a hat-trick against France the other day,Sandeep turned out to be the hero for India against Canada,scoring two goals which took his tally in the event to nine.
The backline,however,looked shaky at times and continues to remain a major worry for India.
Talking about the next match,Nobbs said that he would continue with his experiments.
“We would like to experiment a bit against Poland. I don’t know how the match would pan out. It depends on how they play,I don’t see them making the finals but of course,I can be wrong,” he said.