How drastically fortunes have changed in the tri-series being played in the Caribbean. Till a few days ago, West Indies were favourites to make it to the final, and India were on the verge of being knocked out. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, were also unsure of their chances after their first couple of matches. As things have turned out, India went from the last position in the three-team table to the top following their thrashing of Sri Lanka. The latter though qualified on the basis of a superior run-rate, and rather surprisingly, West Indies ended up being knocked out.
Of the two teams who have made it to the final, India will naturally be the more buoyant, having won their last two games rather comprehensively, especially after the manner in which they dismantled Sri Lanka to make it to the finals. However, Thursday will be a new day, and the Lankans would not be thinking about the past encounter, which was actually marred by rain, and hence did not allow them to perform to full potential. Also, India and Lanka have battled each other on numerous finals in recent times, and both sides have had their fair share of success. In short, they know each others’ game inside out.
While another final wouldn’t mean a lot to them, the game would be an opportunity for two young captains to stamp their authority on the series. Even though Virat Kohli is only a stand-in skipper, he would dearly love to lay his hand on the trophy, which would give him further confidence to take over the duties full time in the future. As for Angelo Mathews, he is expected to perform the role of leader for a while to come, so a victory here could be the much-needed boost he needs to kick-start his career as leader on an earnest basis.
India would be banking on a few in-form players in the final. For a change, Rohit Sharma features among them. He is yet to get a big score, but he has spent a lot of time at the crease, and that could come in handy on the big day. Again, Shikhar Dhawan would be keen to make an impression. He hasn’t been as consistent as he was during the Champions Trophy, but it would be unfair to expect him to churn out hundreds day in and day out. Lastly, the way Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowls might have a significant impact on the bearing of the match.
From Sri Lanka’s perspective, they have an extra special reason to win this particular final. Their former skipper and most experienced batsman, Mahela Jayawardene will play his landmark 400th ODI on Thursday. The Lankan team can give him no better gift than win the final for him. Further, the other seniors in the side like Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga will also be expected to raise their game for the big occasion.
Last but not the least, there are reports that MS Dhoni might take the field even if not fully fit. That would be some boost for India!
--By A Cricket Analyst