3 things India need to do right to beat Sri Lanka in 2023 World Cup clash

The powerplay battle is likely to determine the outcome of the India-Sri Lanka contest
The powerplay battle is likely to determine the outcome of the India-Sri Lanka contest

India and Sri Lanka are set to face off in a crucial 2023 World Cup clash at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday, November 2.

It will be India's first ODI World Cup game since the famous grand finale of the 2011 World Cup when the same two sides met with the hosts coming out on top. Unfortunately, the rivalry since has been extremely one-sided, with the Men in Blue emerging victorious in the last five meetings between the sides.

The numbers paint an even sorrier picture for the Lankan Lions dating back to the last six years when Team India won 15 of the 17 ODI clashes. As far as the ongoing World Cup is concerned, Rohit Sharma and company remain the only unbeaten side in the competition, winning all six games played.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka have struggled for cohesion due to several injuries before and during the tournament, winning only two of their six outings. While they are still not out of semi-final contention, a sixth straight defeat to India will almost certainly end their qualification hopes.

India also annihilated Sri Laka in the final of the recently concluded Asia Cup, winning by t10 wickets.

Nevertheless, India will be wary of the threat Sri Lanka can pose on a given day, considering their T20 Asia Cup triumph last year and their near-win in the Super Fours of the recent Asia Cup.

With that in mind, here are three things India needs to do right to avoid being upset by their Asian rivals.

#1 See off the threat of the in-form Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers

Rajitha and Madushanka have led the Sri Lankan attack manfully.
Rajitha and Madushanka have led the Sri Lankan attack manfully.

While the Sri Lankans have found the going throughout the World Cup tough, their rare glowing moments have been courtesy of the new ball-opening pair of Dilshan Madushanka and Kasun Rajitha.

Madushanka is Sri Lanka's leading wicket-taker and is in the top 10 overall in the tournament with 13 scalps in six games. His 4/49 helped Sri Lanka beat the Netherlands, and the left-arm pacer also picked up the vital wickets of David Warner and Steve Smith with the new ball against Australia.

Meanwhile, Rajitha has bagged eight wickets in his four outings, including 4/50 and 2/36 in Sri Lanka's only two wins against the Netherlands and England.

Sri Lanka's rare wins against India - the second T20I of the bilateral series earlier this year or the Asia Cup clash last year were built on Madushanka and Rajitha's new ball bursts. While Rajitha played in only the former with figures of 2/22, Madushanka picked up a combined five wickets in his eight overs.

Indian fans will also do well to forget Rajitha's damaging spell of 3/29 in Sri Lanka's T20I triumph against them at Pune way back in 2016. Although the Wankhede track is a batting paradise, there is some seam movement and bounce early on in the piece.

Considering the Indian top three of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, and Virat Kohli decimating the Sri Lankan attack in the side's 3-0 walloping earlier this year, the trio could be in for a feast on a batting beauty in Mumbai should they see off the new ball.

#2 Dislodge the three pillars of the Sri Lankan batting early

Nissanka and Mendis were vital in Sri Lanka's rare T20I wins against India recently.
Nissanka and Mendis were vital in Sri Lanka's rare T20I wins against India recently.

The Sri Lankan batting has solely ridden on the performances of the batting troika of Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, and Sadeera Samarawickrama.

While Nissanka has been the top-order rock around which the rest of the batting revolves, Samarawickrama has arguably been Sri Lanka's batter in the competition.

Nissanka has scored four half-centuries and a 46 in his last five outings of the World Cup. In the two rare Sri Lankan wins over India in T20Is recently at last year's Asia Cup and this year's series in India, the right-handed opener scored a crucial 33 and 57.

His partner in crime on both occasions was skipper Kusal Mendis, who scored a 37-ball 57 and 31-ball 52 while opening the batting. Despite tapering off lately, Mendis started the World Cup with a bang and has racked up 268 runs at an average of 44 and an impressive 127 strike rate.

Sri Lanka's middle-order trump card that has masked the struggles of Charith Asalanka and Dhananjaya de Silva has been Samarawickrama. The right-hander is their leading run-scorer with 331 runs at a sensational average of 82.75 and a 104.41 strike rate, including a blistering century against Pakistan.

However, the three batters have done little of note against India in ODIs, with a combined average of 21.1 in 12 innings and a 74 strike rate.

A key reason behind Sri Lanka's batting woes against India in ODIs is thanks to pacer Mohammed Siraj's match-winning new ball spells.

In two of his last three outings against Sri Lanka ( 3rd ODI in India and the Asia Cup final), Siraj has picked ten wickets at an other-worldly 5.30 average. He removed the Sri Lanka trio in his spell during the Asia Cup finale, leading to them being bowled out for a paltry 50.

Such is the importance of the three batters to the Sri Lankan cause, and the Indian pacer could be the man to quash their batting vigils.

#3 Avoid complacency based on the current position and recent domination of the opponent

India demolished Sri Lanka to win the Asia Cup less than two months back.
India demolished Sri Lanka to win the Asia Cup less than two months back.

More than the Xs and Os, the game could also hinge on India being slightly complacent, given their position on the points table and their relentless domination of Sri Lanka over the past few years.

With almost all their players in top form and having beaten better opponents like Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, and England, Team India could take the foot off the pedal.

It could easily be said that their two T20I losses in the last two years and a couple of close outings in the recent Asia Cup and the home series earlier this year against Sri Lanka stemmed from a bit of complacency.

Rohit Sharma will do well to remind his side of the 2019 World Cup when their first slip-up late in the round-robin stages against England stalled the unbeaten streak and perhaps led to their eventual downfall in the semi-final.

Entering the business end of the tournament, Team India must ensure they continue to come out all guns blazing and continue their winning momentum heading into the marquee clash against South Africa on Sunday.

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Edited by Ankush Das
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