Stiffer challenge awaits India

India will have to brace up for a stiffer challenge when they clash with hosts Sri Lanka in their Asia Cup group B league match.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Dambulla:India will have to brace up for a stiffer challenge when they clash with hosts Sri Lanka in their Asia Cup group B league match. Barring vice-captain Rahul Dravid, who anchored the Indians to a comfortable 116-run victory over minnows UAE in their opening match with a 104 yesterday, most of the other top batsmen appeared bit rusty after the three-month break. Although the scrappy batting show was understandable considering it was their first competitive outing after the trip to Pakistan, Sourav Ganguly and his men have to pull up their socks against the Lankans. Fascinating contest The day-night encounter at the picturesque Rangiri International stadium could turn out to be a fascinating contest between the formidable Indian batting line-up and joint world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan who will relish to bowl on this slow track. Though the Indians were not really tested in the opening match against debutants UAE, captain Ganguly has exhorted his players to get into rhythm early to keep themselves on track for regaining the Asia Cup after a gap of six years. "They bowled well in the first 15 overs. In fact, we did not bat well. But it is understandable as it was the first match after the break and things will get better," said Ganguly. Getting back on track The Indians were expected to retain the same team that did duty against UAE, which means off-spinner Harbhajan Singh would be again confined to the dressing room. The two young pace sensations --Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji -- were quite impressive in the first match while Zaheer Khan will be given more opportunities to regain his flow and rhythm. "Balaji and Pathan bowled well in the last match. Zaheer also ran in hard and bowled very well, which is good for the team," said Ganguly. The win against UAE has virtually assured India of a place in the Super League but the four-time title holders will be keen to top the group by putting it across the hosts. Feeling optimistic Sri lankan captain Marvan Atapattu was quite optimistic about his team's chances in the six-nation tournament, saying that his players had the potential to win the title. "We have two very strong opponents in Pakistan and India. But if we play to our potential in home conditions, we will certainly win," said Atapattu. The islanders have a major injury worry with star performer Sanath Jayasuriya down with a side strain. Although the former captain was expected to take the field, he may not be in a position to bowl. The slow nature of the track at the Rangiri stadium should provide some assistance to the spinners. The main hurdle It will be interesting to see how the Indian batsmen counter Muralitharan who has a very good track record at this ground, having claimed 5 for 23 against Pakistan two seasons back. Despite the ban on his 'doosra', a ball that moves away from the right-hander, the wily off-spinner has the experience and the variety to trouble the Indian batsmen. (PTI)

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