Virat Kohli (right) is one of the few batsmen to have a good record against Lasith Malinga. Kohli will not let go off a single opportunity to score off the slingy bowler © Getty Images
India play Sri Lanka in the ICC World T20 2014 final on April 6. Both India and Sri Lanka have been the best teams in the T20 World Cup so far and rightfully earned their place in the final. History beckons for both the teams as only one will win eternal glory. Shrikant Shankar highlights some of the battles that might be crucial in the final.
Rohit Sharma vs Sachitra Senanayake
Rohit Sharma has been India’s second highest run-scorer in the World T20 so far with 171 runs. He has shown glimpses of his brilliance, but hasn’t exactly stamped his authority in any of the matches. Rohit gave India a very good start in the semi-final against South Africa chasing a competitive 173-run target. If he clicks in the final, then India could benefit heavily from that. He will be facing Sachitra Senanayake early in the innings. Sri Lanka use the off-spinner to open the bowling. He is not a wicket-taking bowler, but will try to keep the run flow in check. Yet It is important for Rohit not to lose his wicket to Senanayake and still score the runs quickly.
Virat Kohli vs Lasith Malinga
This contest is between India’s best batsman and Sri Lanka’s best bowler. This is a duel that has intrigued many cricket fans. Lasith Malinga is one of the best limited-overs’ bowler in the last few years. His yorkers are almost unplayable and his slower bouncers are disguised very well. Not many can score runs against him. But there are a few who have a superb record against Malinga, especially one i.e. Virat Kohli. India’s vice-captain is the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 242 runs. Malinga has take only five wickets in the tournament. But as Malinga said, it only takes one ball to get a wicket, any wicket. This battle will be crucial in deciding which team comes out on top.
Yuvraj Singh (left) hasn’t been in great touch and an accurate Rangana Herath can pose a lot of problems for the southpaw © Getty Images
Yuvraj Singh vs Rangana Herath
The comeback man Yuvraj Singh has had only one good or great innings of note in the World T20. His 60 floored Australia, but he has only scored another 29 runs in the other three innings he has batted. But he is quality and a can change the outcome of the match all by himself. It will be interesting to see his battle with the rejuvenated Rangana Herath. The left-arm spinner turns the ball into the left-handed batsmen. This could work in Yuvraj’s favour as he scores a lot of runs on the leg side hitting with the turn of the ball. But Herath is a clever bowler and has subtle variations, which can undo many batsmen.
MS Dhoni vs Nuwan Kulasekara
This is not a captain vs captain battle. But the contest between the duo is vividly remembered Back in 2011, MS Dhoni struck Nuwan Kulasekara for a towering six to win India the ICC World Cup in Mumbai. Something similar would be cherished by the Indian fans in the World T20 final as well. Kulasekara does open the bowling for Sri Lanka, but it is usually only one single over. He then bowls in the middle overs and along with Malinga, bowls the last two overs of the batting innings. Kulasekara is Sri Lanka’s leading wicket-taker with seven wickets. India captain Dhoni has not many bats out in the middle as the top-order has generally done its job. But in a final, one can expect Dhoni to come in at some point. If he lasts long enough, Dhoni will surely face Kulasekara. The battle could be very intriguing.
Suresh Raina vs Angelo Mathews
Now South Africa tried to bounce Suresh Raina in one over in the semi-final. They failed miserably as 17 runs came in that over. He hooked one for a six, then edged another for a four. Even in the earlier rounds, there were teams that tried bouncing Raina out with little effect. While his weakness to chin music has been well-documented, these pitches offer no help to the faster bowlers in this regard. If the faster South African pacers were taken for runs, the slightly slower Sri Lankan pacer would be advised not to bowl short deliveries to Raina. One his day, Raina can whack the ball long while not slogging. His bat goes through the line and he gets clean hits. Angelo Mathews will be expected to bowl a few overs of his right-arm medium and if Raina is around, he will try targeting the Sri Lankan. Mathews’s role does not end here though. He is one of the few big-hitters in the Sri Lankan line-up and if Raina bowls, as he usually does, Mathews would be looking to send some balls out of the stands.
An in-from Ravichandran Ashwin can pose a serious threat to best of the batsmen in the world. The carom ball will be the one to watch out for © Getty Images
Ravichandran Ashwin vs Mahela Jayawardene
Ravichandran Ashwin has turned out to be India’s main spinner and bowler in this tournament. He started off the World T20 steadily, but there was nothing special to talk about as he took only one wicket in two matches. But in the last three matches, he has picked up nine wickets. India have generally restricted teams to low totals, but South Africa managed to post 172 for four in the semi-final. Ashwin, though, bowled brilliantly as he took three wickets for 22 runs. He also bowled, what according to Adam Gilchrist, was the T20 ‘Ball of the Century’ to Hashim Amla. He has opened the bowling, then come back in the middle overs and can also be used in the latter stages of the innings. His carom ball can flummox the best of batsmen and they don’t come any better than Mahela Jayawardene. The Sri Lankan veteran will be playing his last T20I and will be looking to get a good score. Ashwin will have no sentiments though and will be looking to bowl the ‘Ball of the Millennium’.
Amit Mishra vs Kumar Sangakkara
Amit Mishra is only one wicket away from Ashwin with nine scalps. He has been brilliant for India, but he did take a pasting against South Africa. But Mishra is a wicket-taker. He will either go for runs or take wickets in bulk. As a leg-spinner he will turn the ball into the left-handers. Here there don’t come many better than Kumar Sangakkara. Like his good friend Jayawardene, Sangakkara will also be playing his final T20I. Sangakkara has not had a good series with the bat so far in the tournament. But he is a class player and can turn on the style in the final. Mishra has been impressive, but had one blip. Indian fans will hope that the one blip is out of the way and he can continue his lethal streak. He does have a very good googly and that will be key against Sangakkara.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Kusal Perera
The Indian seamers have not been amongst the wickets in this World T20. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been India’s best seamer and has not given away many runs. His economy-rate is an impressive 5.31. He does bowl quite a few overs and opens the bowling for India. His first and main duel will be with the talented Kusal Perera. When the left-handed batsman is in full flow, there is a resemblance of Sanath Jayasuriya in him. His short-armed jabs and flicks is a reminiscence of the legendary Sri Lankan batsman. Bhuvneshwar does not any sort of pace to trouble the batsmen, but he can swing the ball both ways without much change in his bowling action. Perera has been getting some runs, but not as much as Sri Lanka would like. If Bhuvneshwar can get Perera out quickly, that could add pressure down the order for the Sri Lankans. All in all, it should be a fascinating contest.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)