Suresh Raina, the India captain, has demanded that his batsmen lead from the front against Sri Lanka today. "We are not getting good partnerships from the openers," Raina was quoted in Cricinfo. "We have to learn from it. They [the openers] didn't get runs in the last two games. It is an important game for us against Sri Lanka. "They are a very good side and we will have to play really good cricket. Let's hope we play well."
If India lose in Harare today they will be out of the one-day international series in Zimbabwe. Having lost to Zimbabwe twice in a row for the first time and conceding a bonus point in the process, Raina's men now face an uphill task to maintain their slim hopes of reaching the final. Raina blamed his team's batting, particularly Murali Vijay and Dinesh Karthik, the openers, after their second defeat to the traditional minnows, when they were held to 194 for nine. But Zimbabwe had successfully chased 285 in the first game, and then it was the bowlers who took the blame.
Vijay, who took 56 deliveries for his 21 in the last game, after scores of 11 and 14, is set to make way for Naman Ojha, the Rajasthan Royals batsman, to make his debut in otherwise an unchanged side. Rohit Sharma, with a couple of centuries in three matches, has been outstanding but India would expect contributions from the experienced Karthik and Yusuf Pathan. India can still take heart from their thumping seven-wicket victory over the islanders, in which Sharma (101 not out) and Virat Kohli (82) shared a 154-run partnership for the third wicket.
Sri Lanka seem to have the upper hand as they have two games to play and with a bonus point earned against Zimbabwe. The islanders overcame a disappointing opening game with a clinical demolition of Zimbabwe and will be looking to carry on from where they left off. "We played better cricket and winning the bonus point was a big advantage," said Tillakaratne Dilshan at the post-match television interview.
"The bowlers did a pretty good job and then we also batted well to win with more than 10 overs to spare against Zimbabwe. "We go into this game with a bit of advantage on our side, as we have two games and a bonus point. "However, we need to play consistently well to win matches. We didn't put up a good score against India in the first game and we didn't bowl well. But we regrouped and came back well to win the next game well and hopefully [this will] continue."
Dilshan is back in form after scoring back-to-back half centuries will be looking to keep up that sort of form. Angelo Mathews, the all-rounder who was rested after picking up an injury, returns in place of Jeevan Mendis, who made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. Dinesh Chandimal is set to retain his place as the wicketkeeper at the expense of the experienced batsman Thilan Samaraweera. * Compiled by Amith Passela, with agencies