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ICC Champions Trophy
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September 28, 2002
2145 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

Pool B:
Ind | Eng | Zim

Pool C:
Ken | SA | WI

Pool D:
Ned | Pak | SL

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Form favours India in final

Faisal Shariff in Colombo

Sri Lanka have won 15 of the 21 one-day internationals they have played against India under lights. And though, statistically, India seem to be at the receiving end, on current form they start as favourites to win the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo on Sunday.

Against Australia, in the second semi-final of the tournament, the Lankans could afford the luxury of a wicket that turned square even before the shine of the ball wore off. But against the Indians, easily the finest players of spin, they will have to rethink their strategies.

They cannot afford to provide a seaming track too because then they will have to contend with Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath, who will fly in from England later tonight to replace the injured Ashish Nehra. Since Srinath is arriving late, it is certain that he will not play the final tomorrow and Ajit Agarkar will, in all probability, open the bowling with Zaheer Khan.

India skipper Sourav Ganguly said he was sure the Lankans would have ambushed the Aussies on a turning track. "They might try it with us. But we have a team that can score runs in all conditions," he added.

Accepting the fact that the Lankans are a different side at home, Ganguly refused to concede that their batting is superior to that of his side.

"We will find out which side is superior tomorrow evening," he said, with a wry smile.

Man-of-the-match in the semi-final against Australia, Aravinda DeSilva believes that his side is indeed superior to India. He said he will be more than willing to bowl on Sunday as well.

"At the most they will hit me for six sixes in my first over. No, I am not going to shy away from the Indian batsmen," he declared.

Sri Lanka coach Dav Whatmore, however, admitted that the two sides are evenly matched and the only fact that should worry the Indians is their inconsistency.

"They are playing well now but they have lost nine consecutive finals before the NatWest final. Now, how many times can you chase a total of 325 successfully?" Whatmore asked.

"The NatWest final will inspire us more than Nairobi can haunt us, simply because it is more recent. Getting to the final is an achievement in itself. We have won six of the seven ICC Champions Trophy games under my captaincy," observed Ganguly.

Whatmore though admitted that the only factor that worries him is Virender Sehwag.

"He is a dangerous player who is only just starting up. He has a great temperament and I think he is a key bowler for Ganguly at the death."

Whatmore said that they might try using the turning track against India but refused to say whether it would be a wise move.

"If we bat first and bowl at the Indians under lights, it won't be such a bad move," he added.

"If we survive the Sehwag-Ganguly onslaught we will win the game," he averred.

Dismissing the controversy about Sachin Tendulkar's statement that he would prefer to open, Ganguly said there would be no change in the batting order and Tendulkar would continue to bat at number four.

India should preferably look to chase a total rather than set one. Barring the astounding win over South Africa, India's success has been in chasing totals, with its long batting line-up.

And though Ganguly said that the defeat at Nairobi in the last ICC knock-out tournament final would not haunt his team, the fact remains that if India pull it off tomorrow, it will be, in all likelihood, their greatest triumph since the 1985-86 World Series Championships.

Meanwhile, a member of the Sri Lanka team felt that what they did against Australia was unfair and certainly would hurt them when they go to Australia later this year.

"Or, maybe, we might have to pay for it tomorrow itself," he remarked.

Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath sat solemnly in the hotel lobby this morning still recovering from last night's defeat.

Waiting for the Lankans to come to Australia later this year?

"We are waiting for them to come to Australia and bat on a green bouncy track," he said, with a wicked smile on his face.


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