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ICC Champions Trophy 2017: 5 reasons why India should be wary of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Champions Trophy
Sri Lanka enter into the Champions Trophy as underdogs
Ram Kumar

Touted as the easier of the two groups in the 2017 Champions Trophy, India have been slotted in Group B alongside Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa. However, when the action gets underway, perceptions won’t matter as all eight teams in the tournament are capable of holding their own. Perhaps, some more so than others.

After squaring up against arch-rivals Pakistan, Virat Kohli’s troops will take on the Lankans at The Oval on June 8th. The first couple of matches should go a long way in determining their fortunes in the competition. Considering the brevity as well as the intensity of the event, there cannot be any margin for error.

Here are five reasons why India need to be wary of Sri Lanka ahead of their Champions Trophy clash.

#5 Sri Lanka have nothing to lose

From the previous 10 ODIs between the two teams, India have won eight matches. Since the last few years, Sri Lanka have driven themselves into a gruelling transition phase. Still grappling with the void left by the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, their recent performances leave a lot to be desired. And not many fancy their chances in what is shaping up to be a cut-throat tournament.

On the positive side of things, their current situation means that they can express themselves freely without the additional burden of pressure and expectations. More often than not, Sri Lanka are renowned for lifting their game in big events. Rallying the spirit of the Emerald Isle, the invulnerable tag of underdogs could help them play their natural game.

#4 The Malinga factor

Lasith Malinga
Lasith Malinga is an accomplished bowler at various stages of the innings

Admittedly, Malinga has serious issues with his fitness and there are question marks over his recent relevance. The last time he played an ODI was against West Indies in November 2015. However, completely ruling out experienced players like Lasith Malinga amounts to nothing but imprudence.

The menace and efficiency of yore were seen in spurts during the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League wherein the fast bowler picked up 11 wickets from 12 matches for Mumbai Indians. At 33 and counting, he is rapidly approaching the final phase of his international career. The prospect of leading an inexperienced bowling attack demands Malinga be at his very best. Factoring his immense experience into account, the tournament could see him rise to the occasion.

#3 Presence of fluent stroke-makers

Angelo Mathews
Angelo Mathews’ game is suited for English conditions

Despite being rather unreliable, Sri Lanka’s batting lineup contains plenty of flamboyant stroke-players who possess the capacity to swiftly take the game away from the opposition. With India’s pace attack turning heads ahead of the tournament, the fascinating tussle at the top of the order can influence the direction of the contest.

The records of skipper Angelo Mathews and opener Upul Tharanga on English soil are quite impressive. Albeit inexperienced, batsmen such as Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis are natural timers of the ball. Adding the effervescence of Dinesh Chandimal into the equation, there appears to be untapped promise in the lineup. A fearless approach with the bat may cause a few jitters in the Indian camp.

#2 Mystery in the middle overs

Lakshan Sandakan
Lakshan Sandakan is among the rare exponents of chinaman bowling

One of the idiosyncratic traits of Sri Lankan cricket has been the succession of mystery spinners. From the promise of Somachandra De Silva to the genius of Muttiah Muralitharan, the tiny island nation has produced plenty of exotic slow bowlers. Chinaman exponent Lakshan Sandakan is the latest entrant in the illustrious list.

Extra Cover: Lakshan Sandakan – Continuing the legacy of mystery bowlers to emerge from Sri Lanka

Seeing as India’s batsmen have not played against him in any format yet, he can rely on the advantage of novelty. With his smooth action and diversified lengths, the 25-year old from Ragama has the potential to land significant blows and control the flow of the middle-overs. Picking his variations early and not allowing him to settle down will be key in negating the threat of Sandakan.

#1 Dangerous and volatile lower-order

Asela Gunaratne
The likes of Asela Gunaratne can create carnage in the end overs

Notwithstanding the fickle English weather, pitches served up for the Champions Trophy are expected to be batting-friendly and scores around the 300-run mark could be the norm. In such regard, the lower-order muscle becomes extremely important in the bid to notch formidable totals.

With the likes of Thisara Perera, Asela Gunaratne and Seekkuge Prasanna in their armoury, Sri Lanka seem to own a dangerous lower-order. India’s pace bowling combination can unravel quickly if they come under the firing line. Their penchant for early strikes prevented them from gaining death-overs experience in both warm-up matches.

Should the curators prepare a track devoid of fresh grass for the encounter, The Oval’s traditional bounce may facilitate great value for eye-catching shots. If push comes to shove, the onus will be on Jasprit Bumrah to nail the yorkers and stifle Sri Lanka’s hard-hitters in the business stage of the innings.

Edited by Staff Editor

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