India look to start new year with a bang

India would be aiming to open their hectic new season ahead with a bang when they take on Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in a tri-series beginning on Monday.

updated: January 04, 2010 18:18 IST
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Basking in the glory of an immensely successful 2009, India would be aiming to open their hectic new season ahead with a bang when they take on sub-continental rivals Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in an ODI tri-series beginning here on Monday.

The series-opener has the hosts taking on Sri Lanka in a day-nighter here and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men would be in action against the other visiting side on Tuesday.

India are a confident bunch having come here on the back of four series triumphs in 2009, the latest being the 3-1 win over Sri Lanka, and they would want to start the year with a bang.

India, who are currently second in the ICC ODI rankings, will also get a chance to narrow the gap with leaders Australia who are seven points ahead at 130.

India have retained the core of the squad that had beaten Sri Lanka 3-1 in the home ODI series last month.

Pacers Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha though got the axe while Sachin Tendulkar has been rested.

Middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma benefitted from Tendulkar's pullout, while leg-spinner Amit Mishra and pacer Ashok Dinda once again found places in the 16-member squad along with temperamental pacer S Sreesanth who missed the ODI series against Sri Lanka due to swine flu.

Despite the hectic schedule which has given them barely a week's rest after the Sri Lanka series, Dhoni and his men are raring to go and maintain the winning momentum.

"We are happy to play international cricket. It's going to be a triangular series, it will be a bit more exciting. We are hoping this would be continuity to last series (against Sri Lanka)," Dhoni said before the team departure.

Not ready to drop the guard, Dhoni added, "Bangladesh are a good side and can beat any side on their day. We have to be fully prepared."

Sri Lanka had a mixed 2009 having lost both home and away ODI series against India but winning two series against Pakistan. They have come here with a new-look team with several of their big names including Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene missing.

Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, fast bowler Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis have been dropped due to poor form in India while Jayawardene, Muralitharan, Angelo Mathews and Dilhara Fernando were left out due to injuries.

They have brought back batsman Chamara Silva after an impressive domestic season as also leg-spinner Malinga Bandara. Left-arm fast bowler Thushara also made a return to the side after a freak shoulder injury which forced him to return from India.

Sri Lanka have also brought uncapped batsman Lahiru Thirimanne who had an impressive domestic season.

In the absence of some big players, Sri Lanka will have to depend a lot on in-form opening batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga, and captain Kumar Sangakkara to deliver the goods in the tri-series.

Sri Lanka have been found wanting in the ODI series against India on many fronts, the most important being their lack of consistency in all departments of the game.

Their batsmen failed to fire in unison while the bowlers have leaked runs. They even fell several notches down in the fielding department, their forte in one-day cricket.

Captain Kumar Sangakkara, who had obliquely hinted that senior players were found wanting in the series loss to India, would be hoping that the fresh legs coming into the tri-series do not repeat the mistakes.

Bangladesh will also fancy their chances as they have done well in the past year having won 14 one-dayers out of the 19 they played though they have not faced top sides save for Sri Lanka.

They had beaten a depleted West Indies in the Caribbean besides winning a home and away ODI series against Zimbabwe, making 2009 the best year in their cricketing history.

But they suffered a jolt when fast bowler Mashrafe Mortaza was ruled out of the tri-series after being named in the preliminary squad of 26 as captain.

Mortaza failed to recover from his knee injury and Shakib-al-Hasan, under whom Bangladesh won most of the series in 2009, will captain the side.

Mohmmad Ashraful, who lost captaincy after a string of poor performances, was also named in the 15-member squad and he would be hoping to regain his touch in the tri-series after a woeful 2009.

Promising youngster Rubel Hossain, who made the international scene last year, will also be looking to face top Indian batsmen though he had a measure of some Sri Lankans last year.