Kingston: Coming from the Champions Trophy success, where they beat current tri-series rivals West Indies and Sri Lanka, India wouldn't have expected a loss - albeit a narrow one - to start their campaign in the Celkon Mobile Cup. But there's not much time to think and recover from the one-wicket loss at the hands of West Indies as India take on Sri Lanka here on Tuesday without MS Dhoni who has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury..
Dhoni looked in discomfort while batting against West Indies and the injury was confirmed when he didn't return to take field. He was subsequently ruled out of the tournament a day before the Sri Lanka game and has been replaced by Ambati Rayudu in the squad. Other than that, one loss shouldn't warrant any more changes to the in-form Indian eleven. In Dhoni's absence, Dinesh Karthik will take over as the wicketkeeper and Virat Kohli as skipper. Murali Vijay could be drafted in to bat lower down the order as Rayudu may not make it in time for the match.
Before the loss on Sunday, India's nine-match winning streak included a 4-0 Test rout of Australia and five consecutive wins in the Champions Trophy, but the change in conditions - from the swing in England to slow, low tracks in the Caribbean - first tested the in-form Indian batting and then brought that march to an end.
To their credit, Indian bowlers fought hard to almost script a win before being denied by Johnson Charles' 97 and the 10-run partnership between the last West Indian pair of Kemar Roach and Tino Best. Perhaps, it was MS Dhoni's shrewd tactics that cost India, with the Indian skipper not taking field after suffering cramps while batting.
Barring Rohit Sharma's sedate half century and Suresh Raina's 44, rest of the Indian batting failed to familiarise itself on the slow wicket coming from the batting-friendly tracks that the Champions Trophy provided. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Karthik couldn't get going and will have to adapt quickly to challenge Sri Lanka, who too lost their first match to the West Indies.
Indian bowling looked in order with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma getting the breakthroughs when needed. R Ashwin bowled well in support, earning himself a couple of wickets.
Sri Lanka, in contrast, have more worries on hand after their bowlers were thrashed by Chris Gayle in a one-sided victory for the West Indies. Against India, their spearhead Lasith Malinga will especially have to perform to his potential to help his team put up a fight - in support with Nuwan Kulasekara. But it could well boil down to a battle between the slow bowlers, which makes the likes of Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake and Rangana Herath a wicket-taking force.
In the absence of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka's batting continues to remain over-dependent on senior statesman Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Other than skipper Angelo Mathews, none of the Sri Lankan batsmen put up a fight in the game against the hosts. But against India, they will like to strike as a unit; however, it won't be easy against the in-form World Champions.
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Murali Vijay, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Ishant Sharma
Sri Lanka: 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Mahela Jayawardene, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Nuwan Kulasekara, 8 Jeevan Mendis, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis